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Getting more women in the Dáil can't be a once off thing, such progress must continue

In comparison to the 2011 general election, there has been an increase of over 40% in the number of women in the Dáil.

WITH THE GENERAL election done and dusted, it’s clear that Ireland has made a number of significant political shifts.

While on one hand, yes, the general election has resulted in uncertainty around the formation of government, on the other hand it has been an historic election for women.

That is a 40% increase on the 2011 election where women only made up 15% of the Dáil. Over the life-time of the Dáil that number increased to 27 which was an historic high of 16%.

The introduction of the gender quota has been instrumental in this change. Political parties had to nominate a minimum of 30% female candidates or face a 50% loss of state funding.

While the four larger parties all met the quota and collectively selected over 80 women, 163 female candidates ran in total with large number of women running as independent candidates or for smaller parties.

Would parites have put women forward otherwise?

It is questionable whether political parties would have opened their selection processes without the quota. Despite large numbers of female members in all of the major parties, the general election 2011 saw only 15% female candidates, the largest ever at the time.

The most interesting thing about the dramatic increase in female TD’s is that is illustrates that where women run, women get elected. 30% of the candidates were women, women garnered 27% of first preferences nationally and 22% of TD’s elected are now women.

In some cases, women topped the polls. Co-Leaders of the Social Democrats Róisín Shorthall and Catherine Murphy, topped the poll in their constituencies, as did Fine Gael’s Mary Mitchell O’Connor and Heather Humphreys, Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald and Fianna Fáil’s Mary Butler in Waterford.


Some constituencies will have their first ever female TDs: Imelda Munster in Louth, Margaret Murphy O’Mahony in Cork South West, and Fiona O’Loughlin in Kildare South.

In Cavan Monaghan Niamh Smyth’s election marked the first time a Cavan based female TD was elected while Maria Bailey FG will have the honour of being the 100th female TD elected to Leinster House since 1918.

A different landscape 

The Dáil will look very different on 10 March when it sits for the first time. Not only will it be more ideological flavoured, but it will also be more gender balanced. It is as if Ireland is finally moving towards a Dáil that captures the diversity of our nation, diversity in thought, perspective, in approach and diversity in gender.

While this progress has been exceptional, the gender quota pushes political parties to nominate 40% female candidates from 2019. It is important to consider this now in terms of building a pipeline.

Creating a pipeline for women into national politics is absolutely vital if they are to prevail.

However, it is not all down to the political parties, nor should it be. We as citizens need to take responsibility. As the general election comes to an end, Women for Election asks women out there to consider their own political future. The progress made should not be an isolated event, and for such progress to continue, women across the country need to put up their own hands and say, yes, “I will run”, “I will stand for my community”. “I will run for election”.

When you do, come and talk to Women for Election, we are here to help, and the opportunity might come sooner than you think!

Michelle O’Donnell Keating is Co-Founder of Women for Election. 

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Read: Giving women time off for periods would be unfair – but we need to talk about them more>

Michelle O'Donnell Keating
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