Fine Gael's European Parliament election candidate for Midlands/ North-West Maria Walsh and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar Sam Boal
Women for Election

Plan for 'bad weather' and 'watch out for dragons in your own party': What FF and FG are telling women election candidates

Two of the main political parties have held training events for women contemplating a life in politics.

GETTING MORE WOMEN to run for election was the focus of two of the main political parties last weekend. 

At the Fine Gael National Conference, there was a special ‘women’s leadership’ seminar for women, chaired by former Justice Minister, now European election candidate Frances Fitzgerald. 

While there are no gender quota rules for local elections, the party is keen to highlight that Fine Gael has 109 women booked in for the local elections – the highest number achieved by any party. 

No party has ever exceeded 100, and the latest figure puts them on 28% representation. The party expects to reach the 30% for female candidates. 

Fitzgerald, and Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty told the women who attended the talk at the Whites Hotel in Wexford that they are committed to increasing women’s membership in Fine Gael from the current 30% to 51%.

Tips for women candidates

The event, which was closed to the media, also had some interesting tips for women thinking of throwing their hat in the ring, such as: ‘Plan for bad weather.’

Whether this is hinting at a woman’s hair getting in a mess, who knows, but other tips included, building a plan, and setting weekly targets. 

Women were also told not to ‘obsess about the competition’ and to ‘make it fun’.

In terms of how to appeal as a candidate, Fine Gael members were told to ‘establish trust’, ‘maintain honesty at all times’ and keep it to ’80/20 positivity’ 

Turning to Fianna Fáil now, which has a bad track record when it comes to getting women on board, as 20% representation by women in the local elections. 

The party said in a statement: 

Of our candidates, at present there are 82 women contesting the local elections for us, which equates to just over 20%. 
However, it is a work in progress and additional candidates are being added to tickets where suitable. Last week, for example, Hannah Lemass was added to the ticket alongside Mary Fitzpatrick in Cabra-Glasnevin, while Sarah Jane O’Reilly was added to the ticket in Ashbourne.

Campaign bootcamp for women

Veteran Fianna Fáiler, Mary O’Rourke was the key speaker at the ‘Fianna Fáil campaign Bootcamp training day’ and was on hand to provide advice and support ahead of the upcoming local elections.

The party said the seminar is the latest in a series of events, aimed at encouraging more women to get involved in politics at a local level.

Her advice for women going up for election: Be careful of the dragons. 

“Don’t mind the dragons – who are mainly men – stand up to them. Don’t do yourself down or say ‘oh, I couldn’t do that’. I was like that until life knocked it out of me.

“There are serpents everywhere, most likely in your own party. The most likely place for dragons is in your own party.”

She added that as Fianna Fáil’s first female deputy leader she is acutely aware of the challenges a political life poses.

“I think we need to impress upon them the importance of having the skills to thrive in our modern society. I believe that women need to succeed on their own merits, be equipped with the skills to forge ahead in life, to be persistent and to deal with any setbacks that come their way,” said O’Rourke.


O’Rourke said she is not a fan of quotas for women. 

“I am not a believer in the quota system… I believe the quota system is unjust,” she said. 

Having said that, she hopes Fianna Fáil will increase the number of women, stating they “hope by the time the numbers are in we should be in and around the 25% or 26%”.

O’Rourke said Fianna Fáil hope to build on their successes in the 2016 general election, stating that local elections are “fiercely important”.

“They are the first step up the ladder,” she said, adding that women have a certain set of skills they should play to. 

“Women often put themselves down, but I always say to the women putting themselves forward, ‘you know a lot’.”

Women have life experience and a different life experience to men, she explained, which puts them in a unique position of looking at something from a different angle, she added. 

“If you have a family, you manage a house, you care for your children, or care for your own parents, don’t put yourself down,” she said, adding that it is very important for women to have support if they are getting into politics, from both family and friends. 

For mothers, she said it can be particularly hard, especially due to the unsociable hours. 

“The guilt is tough for women – but don’t worry, they do get on okay without you,” added O’Rourke. 

So, while O’Rourke didn’t mention watching out for bad weather in her advice, she did have some tips for women candidates. 

“Treat the person on the door as if they are your employer, because they are – you are looking for their vote. State your case, and have a good exchange with them, and make a good impression.

“Whatever you do don’t get into an argument. Acknowledge that you have different views, set out your beliefs and part like that. Don’t leave them with the impression that you are argumentative. 

“Also dress as if you are going for an interview, my father used to always say ‘no showy things on you’. Keep it simple.”

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