The 2018 Sheehy Skeffington School on Social Justice and Human Rights was held on Saturday April 14th in the Ireland Institute, Pearse Street, Dublin 2.
The 2018 theme was :
Rights, Representation and Reality
2018 marks a century since Irish women won the right to vote for the first time and 50 years after civil rights activists in Ireland and the US insisted on basic human rights and declared war on poverty. In 1918, Constance Markievicz, thanks to a determined campaign by suffragettes, including Hanna Sheehy Skeffington, became the first woman to be elected to the British parliament. Fifty years later, in 1968, civil rights activists occupied a house in Caledon, Co Tyrone, to highlight housing discrimination towards nationalists. In the same year, civil rights activists from across the US converged on Washington in the Poor People’s March as part of the Poor People’s Campaign to get economic justice for the poor. 1968 also saw the passage of the Fair Housing Act in the US, a development underlining the impact of the civil rights campaign.
The 2018 Sheehy Skeffington School will draw inspiration from these and other people’s movements in exploring the theme of this year’s school – Rights, Representation and Reality. The school will celebrate the centenary of women over 30 securing the right to vote under the Representation of the People Act 1918 but will draw attention to the continuing gaps in parliamentary representation of the “people”, particularly those living in poverty. Questions to be addressed include why so few politicians actively promote, and more importantly, implement, policies to end inequality and poverty in 21st century Ireland? With more than 3,000 people homeless, why is there no right to public housing and no rent controls? What can be done to make the Houses of the Oireachtas more representative of the interests of ALL of the people and more focussed on achieving basic human rights? What are the best means of ensuring politicians take urgent and meaningful action to reduce the growing divide between rich and poor?
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