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Mixed reaction to step back from gender quotas for local elections

Political parties that run at least 30% female candidates in next year’s local elections will get funding for an equality officer.

Image: Shutterstock/smolaw

THE GOVERNMENT PLANS to roll out a scheme that will give political parties additional funding to hire a diversity and equality officer if they run at least 30% female candidates in next year’s local elections.

The plan to incentivise rather than establish gender quotas for the 2019 local elections has been welcomed and criticised by some groups.

Women for Election, an Irish non-profit organisation which trains and encourage women to enter politics has welcomed the announcement.

Women for Election CEO Ciairín be Buis said May’s local elections could be a game-changer in terms of gender balance in Irish politics.

“Rewarding parties who help 2019′s results return better gender balance is a good place to start.”

Gender quotas 

Quotas already operate at a national level and were first employed at the 2016 General Election.

Parties can lose State funding if they don’t reach a minimum threshold of female candidates. Currently, at least 30% of a party’s candidates in general elections must be women. This will rise to 40% in 2023.

In the current Dáil, the number of female TDs stands at 22.2% – an all-time high.

However, de Buis said quotas can be divisive tool for pushing gender equality, but added that they do work.

“Mexico’s recent election resulted in a 48% female incoming Congress. They introduced quotas in 1996,” said de Buis.

While Women for Election has welcomed the move, the National Women’s Council of Ireland has not been so forthcoming.

Writing in the Irish Independent today, its CEO Orla O’Connor hit out against government accusing it of being reluctant to show leadership when it comes to gender equality in Irish politics.

Agreeing with O’Connor, the Labour Spokesperson on Equality, Councillor Deirdre Kingston said gender quotas for local elections are needed. 

“It makes sense that the most likely General Election candidates are those who have previous local election experience. To assist parties to deliver on the set targets, more women must be selected at a local level,” said Kingston.  

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