Liz lashes Dail 'boys' club'
Labour TD calls for gender quotas as she decides to quit
Published 04/09/2010 | 05:00
LABOUR's Liz McManus last night hit out at the prevailing 'boys' club' in the Dail, as she announced her surprise retirement from politics.
The 63-year-old Wicklow TD, who will not contest the next General Election, claimed political parties should be refused funding if they failed to run female candidates in future elections.
Women make up only 23 of the 166 TDs in the Dail.
"I'm absolutely convinced you should have gender quotas," said Ms McManus last night after announcing her decision to quit.
"You should deny political parties taxpayers' money if they don't behave themselves and get out there and have women candidates. There are parts of the country that have no women candidate even presented to the electorate. That really is unacceptable."
The TD's decision to retire at the next General Election comes only days after Fine Gael's Olwyn Enright announced she, too, would not contest the election. She is expecting a second child, and wants to spend more time with her family.
When Ms McManus was first elected in 1992, the number of female TDs jumped from 13 to 20. The Labour TD said she "naively" believed it marked the beginning of a change.
"Women haven't progressed beyond where we were in '92," she said. "It hasn't changed. There are eight of them for everyone of us. It hasn't gotten any better. Political parties have got to change."
Ms McManus said she hoped her decision would help Labour to secure two seats in the county at the next General Election.
"It is vital that Labour offers new, younger candidates to the electorate,"she said.
The Labour TD, who previously served as a junior minister in the Rainbow government, said she did not regret that she would now never serve at cabinet. Prior to the last General Election, the then health spokeswoman was touted as a future minister.
"What happened at the last election was that a lie was told to the Irish people by Fianna Fail. And people were frightened because they felt there was something ominous coming and they didn't know quite what. They were afraid to change," she said.
"The reality is that it was Fianna Fail that was causing this terrible crisis. A lot of eyes have been opened since."
Ms McManus (63) has been a TD for 18 years after she was first elected to the Dail in 1992 as a member of the Democratic Left party.
Previously, she served on Bray Town Council as a representative of Sinn Fein the Workers Party in 1979, and later on Wicklow County Council.
She served as Minister for Housing when Democratic Left went into coalition with Labour and Fine Gael in 1994.
After the merger between Democratic Left and Labour, she became deputy leader of the Labour Party from 2002 to 2007.
Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore, who tried to convince Ms McManus to contest the next General Election, said last night that he fully respected her decision. "Liz is a person of great personal and political courage, always willing to take on vested interests and who was never afraid to take a principled stand on matters of importance to her," he said.
Taoiseach Brian Cowen said he respected the decision made by Ms McManus and Ms Enright, adding: "I wish them well for the future."
JAMES DOWNEY: PAGE 27 MY LIFE IN THE DAIL: PAGE 27