Activism for Social and Political Change


  • 31 Mar
  • 3pm - 6pm


The general election of December 1918 saw women in Ireland voting for the first time due to the suffragette movement and activism of women. 2018 is the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote and of the election of Ireland’s first female member of parliament – Countess Markiewicz.

To celebrate this, and in keeping with Rua Red’s programme which reflects the organisations interests with place, politics and people we will host an all female panel featuring some of the foremost female activists in Ireland who have instigated fundamental change through their outspoken campaigns. These four women explored the role of activism in social and political change through their own personal experiences.

The panel included activists Bernadette Devlin McAliskey, Lian Bell, Cecily Brennan and Grace Dyas.

Lian Bell - Activism for Social and Political Change | Part One

Bernadette Devlin McAliskey - Activism for Social and Political Change | Part Two

Cecily Brennan - Activism for Social and Political Change | Part Three

Grace Dyas - Activism for Social and Political Change | Part Four

Bernadette Devlin McAliskey

Bernadette McAliskey has been a social change activist, organiser and campaigner all of her adult life. Actively involved in the Civil Rights Movement and a member of People’s Democracy, She was elected to Westminster in 1969, aged 21 as a N. Ireland civil rights campaigner, sitting in both Labour and Conservative led parliaments. (1969-1974). She served a six-months jail sentence for her leadership role in the Battle of Bogside ( 1969) and survived an assassination attempt in 1981. She has remained an active human rights campaigner spending much of her time in grass roots organising. In 1996 she co-founded S.T.E.P. (South Tyrone Empowerment Programme), a rights-based community owned resource, learning and development organisation of which she is currently CEO. She describes herself as a socialist republican and feminist.

Cecily Brennan

Cecily Brennan is an artist, activist, campaigner and feminist. Brennan is one of the lead coordinators of the Repeal The Eighth Artists Campaign. Brennan feels that the 8th Amendment needs to go or nothing will change for “reproductive rights for women”. In making this come about she feels that artists have a strong role to play as they have done in the past on other social matters. “Artists have played a major role in shifting cultural, political and moral debate,” says Brennan. She cites other artists such as Edna O’ Brien, Neil Jordan, Colm Tóibín and Tom Murphy as having created change in Irish society. In 1979, she was a founder member of Dublin's Visual Arts Centre, and she served as director of the Project Arts Centre from 1983 to 1986. From 1993 to 1997 she chaired the Visual Arts Committee for the Irish Government Department of Foreign Affairs.

Lian Bell

Lian Bell works freelance as a set designer, project manager, and artistic collaborator with some of the most significantarts organisations and independent artists in Ireland. As a designer, she works on contemporary performance, and as a manager, she works on festivals, artist development programmes and one-off events. Lian was Campaign Director of #WakingTheFeminists, a movement calling for equality for women in Irish theatre, which had a significant impact on the Irish cultural community. While the one year public campaign is now ended, Lian continues to work with theatre organisations to establish better gender balance across the theatrec ommunity in Ireland.

Grace Dyas

Grace is part of of THEATREclub. Grace is an activist, a writer, a director and an actor. She makes theatre, performance,film and large scale participation projects. Grace is interested in making work about equality and justice. Her previous work includes; NOT AT HOME with Emma Fraser of NINE CROWS, with THEATREclub, HEROIN, IT’S NOT OVER (coauthored with Barry O’Connor) and The Game (co-authored with Gemma Collins and Lauren Larkin) Her work has toured nationally and internationally. Grace has won the Spirit of the Fringe Award, Fishamble New Writing Award, and been nominated twice for Best Directorat The Irish Times Theatre Awards. Grace is a graduate of Common Purpose and Res&Ref at the Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Brussels. In 2016, They Abbey Theatre staged a retrospective of her work with THEATREclub; The Ireland Trilogy (The Family (2012), HEROIN (2010),and HISTORY (2013)). She worked as associate artist on Doireann Coady’s ‘I’m not here’ in 2017.