Jan O'Sullivan
JAN O'SULLIVAN

Political Development

Party Affiliation

Profession/ Current priorities

Political Aims/ Priorities/ Assessments




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[ European Commission, DG V ]

© Jan 2001

European Database: Women in Decision-Making

Jan O'Sullivan

Political Development

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan T.D. is a member of the Labour Party from the Limerick constituency. She is married with 2 children. She entered the political arena on issues such as human rights, women's needs such as health, care, access etc She would see her political progression as slow in that she initially joined the Democratic Socialist party in the early 1980's. This was a party set up by the late Jim Kemmy who had split from the Labour Party. She supported him in canvassing on issues such as contraception, Northern Ireland and the right to choose.
She would see Jim Kemmy as a clear role model in his progressive campaigning and canvassing. It was interesting times at the beginning of the Democratic Socialist Party. In addition to the late Deputy Kemmy, Mary Robinson is another obvious role model. In particular as President of Ireland but also in her earlier days on issues such as human rights and equality.
There is no particular political tradition in her family where both parents would have supported different parties. Her political career progression coincided well with her children's ages as they were 8yrs and 12yrs when she ran for the Seanad in 1992. She would see these as good ages for a mother to take on a political life. She doesn't know how young mothers manage with a political career and feels that the Dail Crèche will certainly support some Dublin deputies but really as a county deputy she feels she would not have used it if it was there in her time.
Deputy O'Sullivan was elected to the Seanad in 1992, however was unsuccessful in the Dail elections in 1997. She held neither a Dail nor Seanad seat between June 1997 and the bi- election on October 1998. It was the party's decision for her not to go for the Seanad in 1997 and following the death of Jim Kemmy she was elected in the bi- election in 1998 and was seen as the natural successor for Labour.

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Party Affiliation

Deputy O'Sullivan joined the DSP in 1982, which later merged with the Labour Party in 1991. She was in the DSP at the early stages of party and feels that they were small but articulate. The DSP introduced issues to be debated that were ahead of their time such as pro-choice, self-termination on Northern Ireland. It was on such issues and based on her relationship with the late Jim Kemmy that she joined the DSP and a concern was that not a lot of notice was taken of this small party. Deputy O'Sullivan fully supported the merger to the Labour Party and was one of the DSP negotiators. She doesn't hold an officer position within the Labour Party and feels it is good to spread opportunities.
The membership of the Labour Party comprises 34% women. She is a strong believer in quotas and doesn't think it will happen naturally. Until such time as you have the critical mass quotas and other strategies will be essential. Lists, zipper systems and other models need to be explored. Until the political structure changes encouragement needs to continue for example within the Labour Party they advise that women delegates are encouraged to go forward.
While she doesn't think women necessarily vote women, a female candidate can identify with the issues on the doorstep. She has been a strident campaigner on women's rights and is currently spearheading the campaign within the Labour party on MORE WOMEN EQUALS BETTER POLITICS. She has called for politicians to cut down on waffle if politics is to become more attractive to women. In a recent national survey on women's perception of politics she found that the widespread perception among women is that politics is about point scoring and corruption.

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Profession/ Current priorities

Deputy O'Sullivan was a teacher for a short period of time and studied (correspondence course) as a Montessori teacher while living in Canada. She chose to spend time at home while having her children and once they were in school she ran a playgroup in the a.m., spent time with the children in the afternoon and political work in the evenings.
Quick to pick up and learning as she went along, Deputy O'Sullivan continues to manage her time with such precision. Her priorities have remained very rights focused with a strong emphasis on the equality agenda being her central concern. More recently she has had a focus on the parental leave legislation and disability with regard to access and employment equality.

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Political Aims/ Priorities/ Assessments

Influencing the development of legislation through the introduction of opposition Bills and well placed parliamentary questions. Achieving and facilitating equality are ultimate goals through a constant chipping away to progress change. Ensure the implementation of the Employment Equality Act and the enactment and implementation of the Equal Status Bill.
She believes in challenging the issue of poor visibility of women in decision-making and political life. Other areas of focus would be access routes for women not on the live register; lack of a childcare strategy; workplace organisation and flexibility; the need for a widespread support system for women at risk from violence. Other issues would be women's health provision; separate legal representation for victims of rape; supports for young mothers; and bullying in the workplace and putting in place strategic measures to prevent and respond to its incidence.
Positive Action is needed until a balance is achieved however Deputy O'Sullivan doesn't think she has received such EO direct supports. There are certainly the numbers within membership with an aim towards 50:50, however in some branches the motivation is not necessarily evident. Covert discrimination no doubt continues to exist, and certainly women suffer due to the way business is done, timing, branch decisions, etc. There is no doubt that a lone woman is a lonely voice.
Perception of politics is a serious obstacle in the current corruption climate coming from the Tribunals.

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