Fine Gael has to add eight women to hit gender quota
Fine Gael bosses may have to add as many as eight women candidates to constituency tickets as they are unlikely to meet the 30pc gender quota required for the next General Election - with only six selection conventions remaining.
To date, Fine Gael has held 34 conventions, selecting 50 male candidates and 18 female candidates - which represents 26.5pc of the party's total so far.
Tom Curran, general secretary of Fine Gael, told the Irish Independent last night: "We will be making a number of strategic decisions in the coming weeks."
However, he insisted the party was "on course" to meet the 30pc target.
"We'll be adding candidates - both male and female - after the conventions are finished," he said. "We're confident we'll be making the 30pc."
However, with six conventions left to complete - the final one will take place in the Taoiseach's constituency of Mayo on October 19 - there are only two women likely to make it through the selection process; sitting TD Michelle Mulherin in Mayo, and Josepha Madigan in Dublin Rathdown, leaving the party short of the gender quota.
It's expected that when the conventions conclude, candidates will be added to bring the tally to 62 men and 28 women, bringing the female quota narrowly over the line to 31pc.
It is likely that constituencies with either single candidates, or two male candidates, will be targeted, and these include Cork East, Dublin Fingal, Kerry County, Kildare North, Laois, Limerick, Louth, Wexford and Wicklow.
However, Mr Curran said he didn't expect that adding candidates to tickets would cause trouble within the party. "We have a schedule for doing this. We have engaged in a consultation process with constituencies going back two years."
With the possibility of a sudden election this year, all parties are under pressure to meet the gender quotas. Topping the board is new party the Social Democrats, with a 50-50 gender split between their 10 declared candidates.
Social Democrat TD Stephen Donnelly said: "Our experience so far is that it turns out there is a lot of women interested in politics in Ireland. It's an amazing thing to watch the established political parties say, 'We can't get women'. Then they're told, 'Well, we'll cut your funding'. And then it's a case of 'Oh we found them'. What a surprise. Our experience is that it has been as easy or difficult to find women who want to get involved in the Social Democrats as men."
So far, the party with the lowest gender quota is the Green Party, which has held only 16 conventions to date, selecting two women and 14 men, leaving the gender balance at 12.5pc female.
"We're planning to contest every constituency, and it's likely that the next six conventions lined up will all be won by women, as well as the six after that," said party leader Eamon Ryan.
Mr Ryan pointed out that the Green Party fielded the highest number of female candidates in last year's local elections. "I do believe in quotas, and we'll make the target," he said.
"I spend my life chasing after women these days," he added.
Although Fianna Fáil is also short of the 30pc, with 10 conventions remaining the party is expected to meet the target. Directives to select female candidates have been issued in three of the constituencies: Dublin Central, Dublin South Central and Louth. Both Labour (44.8pc) and Sinn Féin (38.3pc) have already filled their quotas.