Sunday 23 July 2017

Michael McDowell: Dail gender law unconstitutional

There is no basis for legislation telling parties what kind of candidates it should offer, writes Michael McDowell

THE present Tanaiste and Labour leader, Eamonn Gilmore, has promised to publish a bill designed to "encourage" political parties to nominate more women candidates. Under its terms, parties that do not nominate at least 30 per cent women candidates (rising to 40 per cent in seven years' time) will immediately lose half of their Oireachtas funding.

A brave and intelligent Labour woman TD, solicitor Joanna Tuffy, has condemned her leader's proposal. And with good reason, as we will presently see. My experience of Deputy Tuffy in her time in the Seanad was that she was one of the most skilful, reasonable, pleasant (and sometimes dogged) contributors in the legislative process there.

It is noteworthy that neither of the Government parties which together have such a massive majority in the Dail is content to take the far simpler and more obvious course of amending its own rules to give effect to such gender quotas. That would leave the other parties free to decide whether they wanted to follow suit. It must, Mr Gilmore tells us, be done by law for all parties.

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