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First women-only Oireachtas meeting sparks controversy

Labour’s Joanna Tuffy has objected to the ‘pigeonholing’ of women in the meeting to be held tonight.

Joanna Tuffy has said she will not be attending the meeting
Joanna Tuffy has said she will not be attending the meeting
Image: Adeline Pericart/Photocall Ireland

THE FIRST WOMEN-only meeting of TDs and Senators will be held tonight – but has already become the subject of controversy after one female TD said she would refuse to attend.

The meeting, facilitated by Fine Gael deputy Mary Mitchell O’Connor, will hear submissions on the representation of women and discuss how to increase the number of female TDs and Senators.

However, Labour’s Joanna Tuffy told TheJournal.ie she would not be attending as she “strongly disagrees” with the idea of a women-only meeting.

“Many people would take offence at a meeting to which only men members would be invited to,” she said. “We’re not elected as women TDs or men TDs, we’re elected just as TDs.”

Tuffy said she had “no difficulty with the topics to be discussed”, but said there was an “element of stereotyping” to the idea, which would risk the issue of female representation being “pigeonholed as a women’s issue”.

However, Mary Mitchell O’Connor stressed the social aspects of the meeting. “It’s going to be above party politics,” she said. “Really it’s intended to foster attitudes of solidarity between women, because we are a minority group.”

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When asked about Tuffy’s criticisms, Mitchell O’Connor – who previously wrote an opinion piece on the issue for TheJournal.ie – said the meeting was the first of its kind and was simply intended to explore the issues.

” What we would hope down the line is for more women to be involved in politics – to be elected in local elections and then to the Oireachtas,” she said. “I would hope that instaead of 25 women, we’ll be looking at 50 women in the next Dáil.”

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Phil Hogan has said he intends to introduce a gender quota in general elections, and there will be fines for any political party that fails to make sure that at least 30 per cent of their candidates are female.

Poll: Should there be a gender quota in general elections?>

Column: For a new politics, we need more women in the Dáil>

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Michael Freeman

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