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Leinster House is 'unnatural' - Gilmore

Speaking at a conference in Dublin this afternoon on how to elect more women, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore compared Leinster House to a boarding school for its lack of gender balance.

Female politicians in 2008 celebrating 90 years of women in the Oireachtas
Female politicians in 2008 celebrating 90 years of women in the Oireachtas
Image: James Horan/Photocall Ireland

LEINSTER HOUSE IS ‘unnatural’ for its lack of gender balance, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has said.

Speaking at a Dublin conference entitled How To Elect More Women this afternoon, the Tánaiste said that legislation alone will not be enough to see more women elected to office – and compared Leinster House to a boarding school because of the lack of women.

His comments were echoed by Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary-Lou McDonald who said it was “astonishing” that the issue of how to involve women in politics still has to be discussed.

Fine Gael TD Fergus O’Dowd said that it is likely that Fine Gael will bring in gender quotas to select its party candidates in the 2014 local elections, in preparation for national gender quotas which are to be introduced for the next general election which is due in 2016.

Eamon Gilmore said that aside from legislation, other aspects of Ireland’s political practice and political culture will have to be addressed in order to see more women elected, including the amount of time politics takes from personal lives as well as the intrusion and exposure for both candidates and their families.

He also criticised the “debating society, stylised” nature of the Dáil chamber, likening it to a “debating competition.

The Tánaiste said that Leinster House reminded him of a boarding school because of its’ unnatural feel’ and its lack of gender balance.

He described the upcoming gender quota legislation, which will see political parties lose significant amounts of their state funding unless at least 30 per cent of their general election candidates are women, as “far reaching”.

“Only men do power”

Representatives from all five of the major political parties spoke at the conference this afternoon – Eamon Gilmore from Labour, Mary Lou McDonald from Sinn Féin, Micheál Martin from Fianna Fáil, Fergus O’Dowd of Fine Gael and Roderic O’Gorman of the Green Party.

The Green Party called on all parties to voluntarily agree to use gender quotas for the 2014 local elections before they are officially introduced for the general election in 2016.

Mary Lou McDonald, TD for Dublin Central and Vice President of Sinn Féin, said that women need to overcome the assumpion that only “men do power” and that “power is a masculine thing”.

She said that she got involved with politics because she looked at the status quo and “didn’t much like it”.

“I believe that people can come into political office and upset the apple cart… that’s why I took my decision [to run for election],” she said.

Systemic problem

Micheál Martin echoed the comments made by Eamon Gilmore.

“We can all agree that there is a serious and sustained problem, and the evidence of the last election shows is that it is also a systemic problem,” said Martin.

Martin said that although the parties in the Dáil have changed over the past 30 years, the patterns of representation have remained broadly the same and the number of women elected remains low.

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