Friday 30 September 2016

It's not a man's world anymore as young, ambitious women make life a little more difficult

Published 21/07/2015 | 02:30

Lucinda Creighton checks her phone while onstage with Noel Dempsey prior to their guest appearance at the MacGill Summer School
Lucinda Creighton checks her phone while onstage with Noel Dempsey prior to their guest appearance at the MacGill Summer School

Perhaps Frank Flannery was just hopping the ball for sport. Or maybe the longtime Fine Gael strategist realised that his lengthy peroration on political governance had taken the scenic route from one point to the next.

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In fact, if Frank's speech had been a taxi, someone in the audience would've called the guards.

He was pondering aloud on the business of gender quotas in the next general election, and while agreeing that their introduction into our wojusly imbalanced parliament is "absolutely right," he suddenly declared: "It is difficult for young, ambitious men now in some parties sometimes because they are sometimes being pushed aside in favour of young, ambitious women. And they feel a certain sense of grievance, that is undoubtedly true."

Somewhere in the bamboozled hall, a sad song played on a very, very small violin. It certainly opened up a whole new vista on the matter - platoons of wannabe Endas and Gerrys weeping into their pinstripe suits because some uppity bird had the temerity to try and become one of the 30 per cent of women candidates required from each party.

Political pundit Noel Whelan was onto him like a hungry bulldog spotting a leg of ham. "Perhaps if you got rid of some of your ambitious old men…" he retorted with both spirit and accuracy.

In fairness to Frank, he managed the not-inconsiderable feat of uniting Fianna Fáil, Labour and Renua with the first daft statement of the MacGill summer school (though it was only Morning One of six long days of discussions, so it's unlikely to be the last).

Certainly Joan Burton took a decidedly unsympathetic view to the notion of traumatised male politicians when she arrived in Glenties. "I suppose it's giving rise to agony among some people who find the idea of women involved in politics challenging," she sniffed. "But I think a lot of men welcome it, and I think some of the strongest supporters of the women candidates will be men because they'll see it as being their wives, partners, their children, their girlfriends and in some case maybe even their mothers," she suggested.

Unsurprisingly, Mary Hanafin who had been on the discussion panel with Frank Flannery, took the hump over his view, given that the Dun Laoghaire councillor is currently fighting a ground war in the constituency to secure the Fianna Fáil nomination, with the shortest odds on (young male candidate) colleague Cormac Devlin.

"Generations of men were unchallenged, unquestioned in the political process and now for the first time have to stand up for themselves as individuals," she said afterwards. "When Frank's talking about men feeling nervous and upset - well, that's how women have felt for a very long time. The tables are now only turning," she added.

Lucinda Creighton slipped a stiletto into her former party. "It's very difficult for the old dynastic parties where people are used to having seats for generations and holding onto them," she sniped, while Micheál Martin decried it as "a gross overstatement".

Frank Flannery's a wily operator. He must surely have been just having the craic with the MacGill crowd, testing to see if everyone was still awake. He's seen plenty of Dáil chamber s with their rows and rows of men. A Dáil just pining for a platoon of young, ambitious women to give it a good kick up its parliamentary posterior.

Irish Independent

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