Saturday 1 October 2016

Gender quotas have the potential to wreak political chaos

Published 12/05/2015 | 02:30

"Richard Bruton was the first obvious casualty of the insane and patronising policy of giving the Sisters a leg up, when he was cast out of his own party's selection convention in Dublin Bay North because members knew they had to have a woman on the ticket" (Image: Gareth Chaney Collins)

The road to Hell may indeed be paved with good intentions, but the road to mediocrity is signposted by gender quotas.

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Once it was announced that all political parties would have to ensure that at least 30pc of their candidates were female, or lose State funding, another nail was hammered into the coffin of our democracy.

Of course, in a country which now labours under a profoundly unhealthy and divisive obsession with identity and gender politics, it was always likely that any attempt to artificially rig the candidate list would lead to chaos, and that's the situation Fine Gael now find themselves embroiled in.

Richard Bruton was the first obvious casualty of the insane and patronising policy of giving the Sisters a leg up, when he was cast out of his own party's selection convention in Dublin Bay North because members knew they had to have a woman on the ticket.

They assumed - correctly - that the Jobs Minister has sufficient political juice to run his own campaign and he has indeed been added to the party ticket - thus forcing Fine Gael to now run three candidates in DBN, with the added potential for a disastrous split in their vote.

But, as has been predicted by anyone with a whit of sense ever since the quota system was announced, Bruton is not an isolated incident, merely the example with the highest profile.

Most people outside the Carlow area would struggle to pick Pat O'Toole out of a line-up, but the former Fine Gael councillor for Tullow provided an interesting footnote in Irish political life when, two years ago, he became the first candidate to be selected by his local party branch to run in an election only to be deselected because he was the wrong gender.

Schadenfreude is the mystery ingredient in the strange soup that is Irish politics, and plenty of people - women, usually, or men who want to be liked by women - were happy to gloat about both O'Toole and Bruton finally knowing what it's like to be unfairly treated on the basis of their gender. But that's simply stupid.

After all, even the dullest child understands that two wrongs don't make a right, and imposing an artificial construct, any artificial construct, which restricts voter choice is about as anathematic to the basic principles of representative democracy as it is possible to get.

It also provides an interesting insight into how the tried and trusted concept of 'fairness' has been thrown overboard in the race for 'diversity' and 'equality' - two ideas which sound lovely in theory but which lead to unfair chaos in reality.

Fine Gael are now faced with the positively nightmarish prospect of having to flood the ballot box with more candidates than they ran even at the height of their popularity in 2011, when they enjoyed a 36pc approval rating.

These days, they enjoy a rather less exalted approval rating of 25pc yet will be forced to dilute their team of candidates to make sure enough women avail of this form of base tokenism.

In fact, some reports suggest that they may even be forced to drop sitting TDs to ensure they don't lose their exchequer funding.

This begs one obvious question - how do the female candidates feel about being recipients of such profoundly undemocratic largesse?

Well, one might hope they might feel slightly more uncomfortable than the one who replaced the unfortunate O'Toole down in Carlow. After all, when it was put to Kathy Walsh that she might have been exceedingly lucky to be added to a ticket which hadn't voted for her, she simply replied: "I don't make the rules," which, let's be honest, is barely one step above "I was only following orders."

This is normally the stage in the argument when people who defend gender quotas - affirmative action by any other name - go on the attack.

Anyone opposed to such an initiative is obviously a vile, misogynistic brute who wants to keep women chained to the kitchen, or the bed, and is determined to keep the sisterhood down.

As is usually the case with any argument based on emotion rather than logic, it's a ludicrous assertion and one which only serves to highlight the essential idiocy of sentimental social engineering.

After all, voting for someone on the basis of their gender is not just stupid, it's also deeply crass.

Whatever happened to that unfashionable old aspiration of simply getting the best person for the job?

I don't care if the best candidate in my constituency is a one-legged, black, lesbian, single mother immigrant who only got her citizenship papers the week before she announced her candidacy.

If I think she's the best person for the gig, then she gets my vote.

Isn't that how politics is meant to work? Isn't it supposed to be about civic service in a thankless job? Isn't it supposed to be about looking beyond the physical and voting for the brain?

As I said, 'equality' doesn't mean fair.

Irish Independent

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