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Gender quota directive 'weakens' position of female politicians

Fine Gael’s Mairead Fernane said a woman has to want to get into politics and it is “pointless” to encourage them just to meet the quotas.

Mairead Fernane
Mairead Fernane
Image: Joe Stead via YouTube

A FINE GAEL town councillor has said she “questions” gender quotas and whether they are necessary.

Mairead Fernane,who is a councillor for Tralee and was in the running as a candidate for the electoral area until the convention on Friday night, told TheJournal.ie that she thinks “it can be confusing for people”.

“A woman has to want to do it herself, ” she said. “I think it’s pointless encouraging people into politics just because of that.”

“It weakens our situation, to be honest with you,” she added.

Her comments follow Tralee Mayor Pat Hussey pulling out of the race after Fine Gael implemented a gender quota policy, meaning that one of the two women who were potential candidates for the ticket would definitely go forward.

The government has passed legislation that will see parties lose their Exchequer funding if females do not make up a minimum of 30 per cent of their overall number of candidates at the next general election.

Some parties are implementing the principle of the new law now for their selection of  candidates for the local elections next year in order to give them a greater chance of complying with the law.

‘On a plate’

Fernane rejected suggestions that quotas could mean a less qualified person would be chosen, asserting that “the same could work for both genders”.

“It is singling the women out though,” she said. “It all comes down to a personal choice – if you want to go into politics you’ll work for it.”

Grace O’Donnell, the other Fine Gael female candidate in Tralee, who won a place on the ticket at the electoral area convention last Friday night, said today she had “worked very hard to get elected” and thought Hussey had handled the situation in “a very crass way”.

“We do need to get more women into politics,” she said. “The gender quotas are about putting pressure on the grass roots to go out and actively find and encourage females to run.”

“No female councillor I know wants to just get handed it on a plate,” she added.

The Tralee councillor said there needs to be more supports in place for women to give them the option of getting into politics.

“I’m single, I’ve no children and there’s a lot of time involved in politics so you would need a lot of support if you have a family and that’s what this is all about – having support there at all levels, from the grass roots up,” she said.

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Column: How many votes does it take for a woman to get elected?

Column: If we’re going to have gender quotas, why not quotas for everyone?

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