Politics

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Snubbed and shocked: Fine Gael women left out in cold

Philip Ryan and Niall O'Connor

Published 16/07/2014|02:30

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The new junior ministers with the Taoiseach and Tanaiste
Taoiseach Enda Kenny
Taoiseach Enda Kenny
Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams and deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald with the party's European election candidates, from left, Lynn Boylan, Martina Anderson and Liadh Ni Riada, outside Buswell's Hotel. Photo: Damien Eagers.

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny is facing a backlash over his failure to appoint a single woman from Fine Gael to a junior ministerial post.

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Female members of the party said they felt "shocked" and "snubbed" by Mr Kenny's decision to give all nine junior jobs to men.

Last night the Taoiseach was accused of "missing an opportunity" by backbenchers, including two female TDs who had been tipped for a promotion.

Laois-Offaly's Marcella Corcoran Kennedy said she would have expected at least one female party member to be moved up the ranks, while Meath East TD Regina Doherty said she was "miffed" by the Taoiseach's decision.

"If we are generally serious as politicians, we need to give Irish women roles in politics so they can genuinely look at it as a career and see merit in seeking to shape and change communities and national policy," Ms Doherty said.

Vice-chairperson of the Fine Gael parliamentary party Catherine Byrne said the Taoiseach "would have done a lot" for women in politics if he promoted even one female TD.

In contrast, two out of Labour leader Joan Burton's six ministers of state are women.

Mr Kenny's failure to elevate any women may cause electoral problems for his party ahead of the next general election, when gender quotas will be in place.

Fine Gael pushed through legislation which will see parties lose out on electoral funding if 30pc of their general election candidates are not women.

It may also give Sinn Fein an edge with female voters as Gerry Adams's party has made a very deliberate effort to get women into prominent positions.

After the surprise appointment of Heather Humphreys as Arts Minister last week, there was speculation that Mr Kenny would address gender imbalance in the junior ministerial ranks.

Quotas

Since Lucinda Creighton left the party, there has been no female representation among the Fine Gael junior ministers.

Mr Kenny made sweeping change in yesterday's reshuffle, axing four sitting junior ministers and promoting five.

Long-serving party members Dinny McGinley, John Perry and Fergus O'Dowd and former PD Ciaran Cannon were left out in the cold.

First-time TDs Simon Harris and Paudie Coffey were promoted, along with Damien English, Joe McHugh and Dara Murphy. Mr Harris was the big winner, landing the prestigious junior post in the Department of Finance, where he will work closely with Michael Noonan.

Michael Ring, Tom Hayes and Paul Kehoe kept their jobs in the reshuffle.

Tanaiste Joan Burton appointed two women as junior ministers by keeping Kathleen Lynch in place and promoting Ann Phelan.

She also promoted Dublin TDs Kevin Humphreys and Aodhan O Riordain while moving Sean Sherlock to a new role.

Party grouping Labour Women welcomed the appointments within their own party but said they were concerned that their coalition partners did not promote any women.

"This sends out a regretful message to women who are already working in politics or thinking about getting involved," a spokeswoman said.

One of those who missed out, Regina Doherty, said she "respected the Taoiseach's decision" but said he had "missed an opportunity" to promote women in politics.

"I am little miffed that we didn't promote women, particularly with the possibility of needing a quota of 30pc of female candidates," she said.

Ms Corcoran Kennedy said she had hoped the Taoiseach would appoint at least one of her female colleagues

"You would be surprised more than anything else – you would think there would have been a space for even one woman, maybe even two," she said.

Dublin senator Catherine Noone said the photo of the junior ministerial line up was "very stark" given the lack of women.

"I'm not taking away from those who were appointed because they will do an excellent job. But the picture just hits you in terms of the real lack of women and that's disappointing," she said.

Vice-chairperson of the Parliamentary Party Catherine Byrne said she had been contacted by constituents who queried why the Taoiseach did not appoint more women.

"By appointing just one female, it would have done a lot in terms of the whole issue of women in politics," she told the Irish Independent.

The advocate group 'Women For Election', said: "Support is demonstrated by action and the Taoiseach did not show that he was supporting women right up the chain," said its president Niamh Gallagher.

Labour senator Lorraine Higgins accused Taoiseach Enda Kenny of choosing "geography over gender".

Irish Independent

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