Unique community initiative in Cahir celebrates International Women’s Day
People of the town wake up to surprise installation overnight.
Cahir, 8 March 2021 – In a unique community initiative, compliant with COVID-19 restrictions and supported by Tipperary County Council and Cahir Social and Historical Society, Cahir is today celebrating International Women’s Day.
By stealth and under cover of darkness last night, the Daughters of Dún Iascaigh, a small team of local women, who were dressed in Cumann na mBan uniforms and other costumes of the period, secretly erected 24 temporary plaques at key locations to acknowledge the contribution women have made to the town and surrounding area over the centuries. This project has received funding as part of the Tipperary Commemorations programme with funding from Tipperary County Council and the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media.
Featuring the work of celebrated Irish artist, Alice Maher, a native of Cahir, the plaques commemorate a diverse group of trailblazing women, ranging from the first female councillor in County Tipperary to a rebel nun, a socialist, a war time nurse, a suffragette, a war victim, a single mother, an actress and an artist. Badamair, the first lady of Cahir; the women of the Famine; ordinary mothers, who struggled to bring up their children; the unwed, pregnant women who were sent to Mother and Baby Homes, and those who participated in the Land League, Cumann na mBan and the Anti-Conscription Movement are also remembered. This community outreach follows the success of the 2018 Tipperary Book of the Year, “Daughters of Dún Iascaigh: A Light on the History of Cahir Women”, which was published to mark the centenary of the first election in which some women were allowed to vote.
Councillor Marie Murphy was present to erect the plaque to Marian Tobin, the first woman councillor in Tipperary and one of just 43 from across Ireland, who succeeded in being elected in 1920, just two years after women were granted the right to vote. She said, “Young girls need to be inspired by positive female role models. To be truly representative, we need to encourage more women to follow in the steps of Marian Tobin and take public office at both local and national level. Ireland still has the tenth lowest representation of women in parliament in Europe and are underrepresented in the Dáil. I am honoured to represent the people of this community and commend the women behind this important initiative.”
Representing Daughters of Dún Iascaigh, who planned and managed the project, Jo O’Neill, said, “It is important that we remember and celebrate these extraordinary women who shaped Cahir. For too long, they have been forgotten. We are now reclaiming and rewriting the history of our town, plaque by plaque. The centuries may divide us but we have much in common – these women also knew pandemics, wars, love, pain and loss and yet they prevailed. This is an important message of hope during these current times.”
Another member of the group, Annette Condon, grand-niece of Marian Tobin said, “Having a different walking loop will provide a new focal point for the people of the town. The walking tour route will be prominently displayed in a number of key locations in the town for people living within the 5km limit. Others – outside the 5km limit as well as people from Cahir abroad – can access the tour virtually via an online map, read more information about each plaque and in many cases, listen to audio. While the plaques are temporary, we hope that the County Council will consider erecting permanent memorials in due course. Apart from encouraging healthy exercise, we believe that post COVID, this could provide a new attraction in the town for local people and tourists alike.”
Her colleague, Mary Caulfield said, “We have all lived through a tough year and wanted to provide some cheer to the local community. We loved the idea that the people of the town would wake up to something new to see and talk about. We wore costumes to add a sense of fun to the occasion and also to remember the brave women of the past. We gratefully acknowledge the support of Tipperary County Council, Councillor Marie Murphy and Cahir Social and Historical Society. A very special word of thanks to the local Gardai, particularly Sgt. Ray Moloney and Garda Jenny Gough, who were hugely supportive of this community initiative and who have asked that people continue to adhere to the 5km until such time as restrictions are eased. We were also fortunate to have the support of local historians.”
Olivia Lynch, who coordinated the socially distanced installation of the plaques, added, “We want to acknowledge all the people, who live or run businesses in the locations, where the plaques have been erected. We are grateful for their cooperation in granting us permission and keeping our secret. Kudo also to our installation crew and all who helped us with costumes and audio recordings. Everyone was thrilled to be involved.”
People are reminded not to congregate at the site of the maps or plaques and to follow physical social distancing and all other COVID-related precautions at all times.