EU 1979: A People’s Parliament – Democracy, Human Rights and Women’s Political Participation

A political struggle that does not have women at the heart of it, above it, below it, and within it is no struggle at all.

Arundhati Roy, Indian author

Dublin Arts and Human Rights Festival

EU 1979: A People’s Parliament – Democracy, Human Rights and Women’s Political Participation

Date and Time: Monday 19 October, 2020, 10am-12pm – Second Level Schools Only

Monday 19 October, 2020, 7pm – Open to the public

Platform: Online Exhibition hosted by Smashing Times International Centre for the Arts and Equality in partnership with Dublin Castle

Category: EU 1979 Digital Art Exhibition with visual imagery, poetry, music, and Panel Discussion

Tickets: Morning Event – Open to second level schools

Evening Event – Open to the public

Booking: Closed

Moderator: Alice Mary Higgins, Senator

Artists and Guest Speakers: Key artists are Mary Moynihan, writer, theatre and film maker, and Artistic Director, Smashing Times International Centre for Arts and Equality; Hina Khan, Visual Artist; Noelle McAlinden, Visual Artist, Creative Advisor, Arts Activist and Mental Health Campaigner, Curator and Cultural Broker.

Panel discussion guest speakers are Alice Mary Higgins, Senator, Ireland; Dr Stephen Herron, Researcher, Academic, Cultural Anthropologist, and Community Relations Facilitator; Dr Sinéad McCoole, Historian; Hina Khan, Visual Artist and Gert-Jan Verboom from Dona Daria, The Netherlands. The digital exhibition features interviews with eight MEP’s, Barry Andrews and Frances Fitzgerald from Ireland, Dennis de Jong and Kim van Sparrentak from the Netherlands, two MEP’s from Germany, and two MEP’s from France.

Q and A with Alice Mary Higgins, Senator; Dr Stephen Herron, Researcher, Academic, Cultural Anthropologist, and Community Relations Facilitator and Hina Khan, Visual Artist.


This event features the official launch of the EU 1979 – A People’s Parliament digital art exhibition online followed by a panel discussion with guest speakers reflecting on democracy, human rights and Women’s Political Participation.

Smashing Times have created a new digital art exhibition titled EU 1979: A People’s Parliament  featuring a curated collection of visual images, poetry, stories and a digital map with posters, articles and research inspired by the names and stories of 67 powerful women MEP’s elected to the 1979 first European parliamentary elections.  

A key moment was the election of French woman Simone Veil (1927-2017) as the European parliament’s first president on 17 July 1979.  She was a French lawyer, politician, feminist and holocaust survivor and a woman who fully embodied the deep values and profound historical reasons for the European integration project. In her eyes, the construction of Europe was the only way to avoid repeating the horrors of the past. She had been firmly convinced of this since her return from the camps at Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen in May 1945. She survived through courage and determination and began her career as a magistrate in 1974 going on to become the most celebrated and popular female politician in France serving as Minister for Health and then as first President of the European parliament.

The last generation of survivors and witnesses from the Holocaust are disappearing and it is essential that we continue to find ways to ensure that learning and education on the Holocaust continues. A key aim is to show, through stories such as that of Simone Veil,  how the historical roots to the EU lie in the Second World War as Europeans are determined to prevent the atrocities, killing and destruction from ever happening again.   

This event features the official launch of the exhibition online followed by a panel discussion. The exhibition is created as part of a European wide project called EU 1979: A People’s Parliament – Democracy, Human Rights and Women’s Political Participation. The project uses creative processes of film, a feminist framework and online digital resources to remember the first 1979 European parliamentary elections through a celebration of stories of 67 powerful women MEPs elected at that time.  Out of the 410 MEP’s elected in the 1979 European parliamentary elections by universal suffrage, 67 (16%) were women with 2 women MEP’s from Belgium, 5 from Denmark, 12 from Germany, 18 from France, 2 from Ireland, 11 from Italy, 1 from Luxembourg, 5 from The Netherlands and 11 from the United Kingdom. 

The project is co-funded by the Europe for Citizens programme of the European Union. The four European partners are Smashing Times (lead partner), Ireland,; St Dona Daria, Rotterdam, the Netherlands; Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, University of Hannover, Germany and Francais Pour L’Insertion Sociale et Professionnelle en Europe, Paris, France. Elements of this event were initially presented for Culture night 2020 as an early-bird event for the Dublin Arts and Human Rights festival when Smashing Times artists displayed elements of this unique exhibition online in partnership with Dublin Castle.  

Simone VEIL chairing the first sitting of the European Parliament elected by direct universal suffrage in Strasbourg.

Panel Discussion: A Creative Response to Rights and Values in the EU and Women’s Political Participation Today.

Speakers include:

Speaker: Senator Alice Mary Higgins

Senator Alice Mary Higgins reflects on the EU 1979 digital art exhibition and the role of the EU to support civil rights, democracy, equality and peace today.

Speaker: Dr Stephen Herron, Cultural Anthropologist, Northern Ireland

Dr Stephen Herron, a researcher on the EU 1979 digital art exhibition speaks about inspirational women’s stories that have inspired the creation of the exhibition and the impact of Brexit today in relation to Northern Ireland

Speaker: Hina Khan, Visual Artist

Hina Khan, visual artist, has contributed artworks to the EU 1979 digital art exhibition. Hina will speak about her artistic processes and how her artwork connects to the theme of gender equality across borders.

Speaker: Dr Sinéad Mc Coole, Historian

Sinéad McCoole speaks about two Irish politicians, Sile de Valera, Fianna Fáil and Eileen Desmond, Labour, whose stories are highlighted in the EU 1979 digital art exhibition, the importance of the first EU parliament elected by universal suffrage and the importance of the EU in the past and today in relation to equality, democracy and peace.

Speaker: Gert-Jan Verboom, Dona Daria, the Netherlands

Gert-Jan Verboom, from Dona Daria, Rotterdam, the Netherlands will speak about the role of the EU and of culture and the arts to promote women in politics.