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Embassy of Ireland, Belgium St. Brigid's Day 2019

Embassy of Ireland, Belgium St. Brigid's Day 2019

The Embassy of Ireland is delighted to announce details of a special event to celebrate female creativity and innovation on the eve of Saint Brigid’s Day. In Ireland, Saint Brigid's Day is traditionally associated with the coming of spring and renewal, and this year, the Embassy of Ireland will mark the occasion by celebrating the women who have shaped both Ireland and the world, including Irish writers, suffragettes and entrepreneurs.

The Embassy will welcome three of Ireland’s leading female writers Eilís Ní Dhuibhne, Martina Devlin and Antonia Hart to Brussels for a panel discussion on 31 January, moderated by KU Leuven’s Elke D’hoker, a leading academic in the field of Irish female writing.

Novelist and story writer Eilís Ní Dhuibhne will talk about her recent Irish Times article – “1954: a good year for an Irish woman writer to be born” and a reading from her acclaimed new memoir – Twelve Thousand Days. Eilís has written several collections of short stories and novels, plays, books for young people, as well as scholarly articles and literary criticism. She writes in both Irish and English.

Martina Devlin is a bestselling author and award-winning journalist. She will discuss her new book Truth & Dare: Short Stories about Women Who Shaped Ireland. Martina says, “Today’s Irishwomen are standing on the shoulders of an extraordinary group of women – they are the reason we have the vote, access to education and the professions. Trailblazers range from Anna to Hanna: from Anna Parnell who ran the first women’s political organisation, the Ladies’ Land League (1880-2), to Hanna Sheehy Skeffington, a lifelong activist jailed on four occasions who went on hunger strike over the right to vote. To forget these visionary women is to do them a disservice – but ourselves, too, because without their stories we are left with an incomplete and two-dimensional version of Irish history.”

We welcome researcher and writer Antonia Hart back to Brussels following the success of her talk last year, "Irish Women in Business 1850-1922". She will discuss her Irish Research Council funded PhD research on nineteenth century Irish female entrepreneurs. Antonia says, “I acknowledge the unusually successful women, those whose stories were always more likely to be told, my main interest is in the great numbers of more ordinarily successful women, those thousands of Irish businesswomen who have gone before us, leaving us our powerful heritage of creativity in entrepreneurship. These are the stories I am absorbed in retrieving, and the stories I look forward to telling.”

Promoting Female entrepreneurship is viewed as a key source of job creation and innovation and a necessary step for addressing income inequality and social exclusion. This is something recognised by Enterprise Ireland, the Irish Government’s trade and innovation agency. Sheelagh Daly, Entrepreneurship Manager at Enterprise Ireland notes that “addressing the current gender imbalance in entrepreneurship offers significant opportunity for economic growth. In Ireland, women make up half the population, but almost twice as many men start businesses. Achieving gender balance in entrepreneurship could result in thousands of new start-ups every year as well as significantly improving gender diversity at decision making levels across private enterprise.” For the past decade, Enterprise Ireland has been actively promoting female entrepreneurship and has put in place dedicated competitive start funds for female entrepreneurs.



Notes to Editors

Event details

“Who are the women who shaped Ireland and the world?” will take place on Thursday 31 January, 18:30-20:30 at Studio, BOZAR (Rue Ravenstein 23) in Brussels.


6.30 pm - Welcome drink and "Blazing A Trail” Exhibition tour

7.15 pm - "Who are the women who shaped Ireland and the world?" panel discussion

Places are now full but if you are interested in attending please register on Eventbrite in order to be on the waiting list. More spaces may become available closer to the event.

About Saint Brigid’s Day and the Belgian connection

St. Brigid is one of Ireland's three patron saints, alongside St. Columba and the world famous St. Patrick. The origins of her Feast Day on 1st February are thought to originally be a pagan festival called Imbolc, marking the beginning of spring after a long dark winter. Lá Fhéile Bríde or St. Brigid’s Day (1 February), celebrates the arrival of longer, warmer days and the early signs of spring. In the pagan tradition, this day also celebrates Brigid's divine femininity. An important relic, the Saint Brigid’s mantle is kept in the Holy Saviour Cathedral in Bruges, Belgium.

About the "Blazing a Trail” Exhibition

‘Blazing a Trail: Lives and Legacies of Irish Diaspora Women’ is a new exhibition celebrating the lives and legacies of 21 pioneering Irish diaspora women of the 19th and 20th centuries who blazed a trail in a wide range of fields. The exhibition is a collaboration between EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum, Herstory and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

About the moderator

Elke D’hoker is senior lecturer of English Literature. Her field of research is modern and contemporary Irish and British fiction, with a focus on the short story and the work of women writers. She is the author of a monograph on John Banville (Rodopi, 2004) and Irish Women Writers and the Modern Short Story (Palgrave, 2016) and has edited or co-edited several essay collections, including Narrative Unreliability (De Gruyter, 2008), Irish Women Writers (Lang, 2011), Mary Lavin (IAP, 2013) and The Irish Short Story (Lang, 2015). At KU Leuven, D’hoker is research director for the humanities of the Leuven Centre for Irish Studies.

About female entrepreneurship in Ireland

The rate of entrepreneurship among women in Ireland is the 8th highest in Europe. The rate of entrepreneurship among men in Ireland is the fourth highest. Promoting Female entrepreneurship is viewed as a key source of job creation and innovation and a necessary step for addressing income inequality and social exclusion.

Enterprise Ireland established a Female Entrepreneurship Unit to support ambitious women grow scalable businesses and to address the key challenges impacting on the growth of female led business opportunities. Enterprise Ireland's website has a dedicated Female Entrepreneurship page where you can learn more about their supports for female entrepreneurs.

Since introducing measures targeting women in 2013, the number of women setting up their own businesses has grown year-on-year. In 2012, just 8% of participating high potential start-ups were female-led, which has increased to 28% in 2017, 25 of the 90 participating in the programme were female led.

Source: DBJI & Enterprise Ireland

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