Sunday 4 December 2016

Niamh Gallagher: Women at the heart of a Dail power shift

Niamh Gallagher

Published 29/08/2015 | 02:30

Women are making a big impact in Leinster House. and many more are on the way: from left.. Senator Cait Keane,Senator Imelda Henry,Mary Mitchell O'Connor,TD,Senator Kathryn Reilly,Frances Fitzgerald,TD,the Minister for Children, Stylist Sonya Lennon,Senat
Women are making a big impact in Leinster House. and many more are on the way: from left.. Senator Cait Keane,Senator Imelda Henry,Mary Mitchell O'Connor,TD,Senator Kathryn Reilly,Frances Fitzgerald,TD,the Minister for Children, Stylist Sonya Lennon,Senat

Progress! There will be more women contesting the upcoming general election than contested the last one. Now, just months (who knows how many) from the election, 285 candidates have declared and 92 of them are women, that's 32pc. In 2011, 566 candidates ran and just 86 of them were women, a meagre 15pc. So things are getting better.

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And we're not all the way there yet. Based on figures from the 2007 and 2011 elections, at least 200 more candidates will emerge, bringing the overall number of candidates contesting our trimmed-down 158 seat Dáil to about 500. This tallies with where things are at for the parties, who, with the exception of Sinn Féin, are still working their way through local selection conventions. That, along with the number of independents still expected to announce, means the number of female candidates looks set to reach a record high demonstrating that - actually - women want to run for politics.

That might seem obvious, but in the early days of Women for Election, it was the single myth we had to bust. "Women aren't interested in politics" certain party representatives told us - "Women don't want to run: we've looked and we can't find them." Amazing how a quota for selection - and one that means losing half your State funding should you fail to meet it - focuses the mind. All of a sudden those women aren't so hard to find after all, or if they are, certain people are doing a very good job searching.

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