Thursday 20 October 2016

FG women refuse to back O'Connell in gender row

Kevin Doyle and Cormac McQuinn

Published 10/06/2016 | 02:30

Kate O'Connell. Photo: Tom Burke
Kate O'Connell. Photo: Tom Burke

A Fine Gael TD who felt compelled to speak out against what she sees as a gender imbalance in Enda Kenny's ministerial appointments has been left isolated by her colleagues.

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Dublin Bay South TD Kate O'Connell heavily criticised the Taoiseach's selection of ministers and said a bias towards male Seanad nominees was the "final nail in the female coffin".

However, several other high-profile women in the party have failed to back up her view, insisting they are happy with Mr Kenny's appointments.

New Health Promotion Minister Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, who previously complained at a Fine Gael meeting about the lack of opportunities for women in the party, told the Irish Independent she couldn't fault the new line-up of ministers.

Senator Catherine Noone who once accused Fine Gael of "talking the talk but not walking the walk when it came" to gender equality in politics also failed to criticised the Taoiseach on this occasion.

And new TDs Maria Bailey and Josepha Madigan, who were overlooked for office by Mr Kenny, said they believed in people getting positions on merit, not gender.

Ms O'Connell said she was "absolutely shocked" by the lack of women promoted in recent weeks and described the fact just three out of 18 junior ministers are female as "outrageous".

However, Ms Corcoran Kennedy said the promotion of herself, Helen McEntee and Catherine Byrne to jobs relating to health was "a very good thing".

"There are only so many places. There are a ton of very talented men as well that were left disappointed. It's a numbers game and you can only achieve what you can," she said.

"Clearly I would like to see more female representation but we're in a much better place than we were in the past."

Ms Noone said she hoped the "good work previously in the area of gender quotas in Fine Gael will continue and I look forward to Fine Gael women continuing to lead the party forward".

"I'd like to see more women promoted on merit," she added.

Dun Laoghaire TD Maria Bailey, whose constituency colleague Mary Mitchell O'Connor is now Jobs Minister, said each appointment was warranted.

She noted that the Taoiseach moved specifically to put people in charge of health promotion and mental health.

"He listened to people and has taken on board what they have said. I'm about people being promoted on merit. The Taoiseach has listened to what the issues are in recent years.

"I couldn't argue with any of the appointments," she said.

And Josepha Madigan, who represents Dublin Rathdown, said: "As a woman in politics I always want to see women being promoted to senior roles but I believe in a meritocracy above all."

Irish Independent

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