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'Progress is painfully slow': Criticism of Cabinet line-up with just four female ministers

The National Women’s Council said the low number is a consequence of a failure to run enough women on electable seats.

Image: RollingNews.ie/PA

THE NATIONAL WOMEN’S Council of Ireland (NWCI) has expressed disappointment at the low number of women in the new Cabinet.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin this evening announced his ministerial line-up, with female politicians taking up just four of the 14 senior positions:

  • Helen McEntee – Minister for Justice
  • Norma Foley – Minister for Education
  • Heather Humphreys – Minister for Social Protection, Community and Rural Development and the Islands
  • Catherine Martin – Minister for Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht

Hildegarde Naughten will be super-junior minister for international transport and logistics at the Department of Climate Action. And Pippa Hackett will be super-junior minister with responsibility for Land Use and Biodiversity at the Department of Agriculture. 

Although they are not technically Cabinet positions, the ‘super-junior’ status means  they will still attend Cabinet meetings. 

The NWCI said the low number of women in the Cabinet is a direct consequence of the two main political parties “failing to run a sufficient number of women on electable seats” during the last election.

Orla O’Connor, director of NWCI said: “Four women do not even meet the current quota of 30% where we can begin to address gender balance, let alone the desired 50/50 split that has been achieved in many other countries across the world.”

She said it will be crucial now that all ministers promote women’s equality over the next Dáil term.

“The decisions they make in both appointments to senior decision-making bodies and the policies they implement must show a renewed commitment to advancing women’s rights.

Women cannot afford to wait for equality. With just 30.6% of elected Senators being women and only 22.5% women in the Dáil, progress to date has been shamefully slow. Women also remain severely underrepresented at local level.

O’Connor pointed out that councillors are often the pool of people that parties recruit from for their general election candidates and called on the government to pass legislation for a gender quota for the next local election in 2023. 

She also called on the government to increase support for initiatives “that support women to run for political office at all levels.”.

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