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Dublin: 10 °C Wednesday 24 April, 2019
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Less than a quarter of candidates running in the local elections are women

From the candidacy selections so far, Fianna Fáil is the worst when it comes to having women stand for office in the local elections this year.

POLITICAL PARTIES HAVE been busy over recent weeks and months making selections for the upcoming local elections.

Research from Women for Election shows that of the 1278 selections made already by political parties, just 24 per cent are women.

Not all selections have been made, but to date, the majority of the large political parties are seriously lagging behind in achieving gender balance for their local candidates.

Women candidates

To date, Fine Gael have made selected 373 candidates so far, just 22.2 per cent are women, while Fianna Fáil are trailing last in the gender balance race, having made 345 candidate selections, just 17.3 per cent are women. Labour have selected 137 candidates – 31.3 per cent are women and Sinn Féin have made 159 selections, 30.1 per cent are women.

The more left-wing parties are leading the way in equal representation with the majority selecting about 40 per cent or more women candidates. People Before Profit is the most equal party, having made 41 local election candidate selections, 23 being men and 18 being women.

The overall party situation shows that the lowest groups for gender balance are the Green Party, Fine Gael, and in last place, Fianna Fáil.

These figures are up until Friday afternoon, and are constantly changing, said Michelle O’Donnell Keating from Women for Election. She said that there are most likely a lot of conventions on this weekend where further selections will be made.

Fianna Fáil

“Looking at the figures we would like to see Fianna Fáil do a lot better. They are trailing behind the other parties at 17 per cent. We would like to see them make a concerted effort to actively find smart, bright women to stand for office for them,” she said.

In July 2012 the Electoral (Amendment) (Political Funding) Act was passed by the Oireachtas. As part of the Government’s political reform agenda, the law provides for a legal candidate gender quota for future general elections in Ireland.

This was something they committed to in the last election. The new law obliges parties to run at least 30 per cent women candidates in the next general election or face punishment – which is losing half of their State funding they receive annually under the Electoral Act 1997. The law states that the threshold will rise to 40 per cent seven years thereafter.

However, the gender quota legislation only applies to the General Election and not the local elections taking place this year. There was no mechanism to “punish” at local election level and as gender balance in the local elections is not a requirement.

Local elections

“Women for Election and the 50:50 group lobbied extensively for an amendment to be included in the Bill that would include the gender balance quota for the local elections. Luke Ming Flanagan put it well, when he said ‘local councils are the crèches for the Dáil’. He is right. They allow people to hone their skills as politicians, get to know and do work for their community and build networks,” said O’Donnell Keating.

She added that the most people start their political careers in town and county councils and that it would have been wise to ensure that local councils had to have a gender balance too. “Voters tend to vote for the people that have done work for their community, and in the general election, it’s like the candidates are asking the voters for a promotion, to allow them represent them at a national level”.

O’Donnell Keating added:

In fairness to Phil Hogan the gender quota punishment was quite clever. It is the most penalising law in this whole area and our counterparts in Europe were agog when they heard we were introducing it.

In France they have a similar rule but the fine is a lot more affordable, so rather than stick to the rules and have more female candidates, they choose to pay the fine. However, in terms of the local elections, there was no such punishment that could be introduced that would enforce a gender quota rule.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Fine Gael Councillor in Greystones, County Wicklow Grainne McLoughlin said she believed that all parties were making a consorted effort to achieve a gender balance at this year’s local elections, adding that in a lot of councils, including the one she sits on – Wicklow County Council – there needs to be a “huge improvement”.

On Wicklow County Council there are just two females sitting on council. “I was co-opted so there was really only one female elected,” said McLoughlin.

“Do I think there is going to be huge female presence in the local elections? No, but I hope that there will be better representation of women, especially in Wicklow, where out of the 23 councillors, 21 are male,” she said.

“The government can make all the laws they want, but in order to change the outcome, they need to change the circumstances, like having meetings in the middle of the day, when women have to think of childcare or about picking up the kids from school. It may be a general statement, but I think that if there were more women in politics, we wouldn’t be in the mess we are today”.

Read: Want to get into politics? Here’s how to go about it>

Read: Clondalkin councillors say it would be ‘fantastic’ if Kenny Egan runs in the local> elections>

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