Sunday 23 October 2016

Gender quotas are discriminatory

Published 26/07/2013 | 05:00

* 'Male candidate awarded job instead of better-qualified female candidate.'

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If this headline appeared in this paper, it would justifiably stir up a torrent of criticism, letters and comments denigrating the relevant institution and signalling disapproval at the blatant sexism and unfairness of the award. But it would be the lack of logic that would ultimately indict the awarding body: if one candidate is stronger than the other, then surely the job should be awarded to the former? The principle that emerges from this example is that the sex of the strongest candidate should be irrelevant. Most people would agree that this is correct.

'Female candidate awarded job instead of better-qualified male candidate.'

Now take the above hypothetical headline. If we accept the above logic – that the strongest candidate should prevail and the sex of the strongest candidate should be irrelevant – then we should find this headline equally repugnant. No?

This brings us to the introduction of gender quotas. Could the introduction of these result in a stronger candidate losing out to a weaker candidate on the basis of gender? Would this be right? A better-qualified woman should not lose out to a lesser-qualified man. Similarly, a better-qualified man should not lose out to a lesser-qualified woman. They are both examples of sexual discrimination, plain and simple.

For the record, I would welcome a greater female complement in the Dail, but we should leave sex out of it, focus on ability and be consistent in our use of logic.

Rob Sadlier

Rathfarnham, Dublin


* During my childhood, not one of my peers was an openly practising Christian. The majority do not go to Mass, they pray only at the behest of their parents or at funerals. We have not read the Bible, nor has it been forced down our throats.

The abortion debate makes no sense to us. How do these religious people know the things they seem to know? They make claims about the value of a human life and the suffering of an aborted foetus and in no sense provide any evidence, yet they seem to expect that their words will be seen as holding some weight.

The majority of us are not so sure of the existence of a soul as they are, and we do not know what the implications of having a soul would be in this debate.

Why do these foetuses have a right to life in a way that animals don't? How can you know that they suffer during these procedures? What gives you the right to tell others what they should think about abortion when your beliefs seem to basically stem only from a religious perspective?

Being pro-choice does not even mean that you would have an abortion yourself if it came to it; it only means acknowledging the rights of others to weigh up the consequences themselves.

Is it right to bring a child into an environment of poverty due to the age and financial position of its parents/parent, to be neglected and resented because of the burden it has placed on its parents/parent, or to be abandoned by its parents in full knowledge that it was not wanted?

There is a perspective that says abortion is like digging up a seed before it lays down roots. Is this the same as chopping down a tree? This perspective of asking questions and expressing doubt is at complete odds with the sureness and faith claims that this debate has seen so far.

Is it more humble to tell people what to think or to let them weigh up the options themselves?

Oisin Carey

Nenagh, Co Tipperary


* I agree with Sorcha Farrell ('Slaying Sexual Mores', Irish Independent, July 25) in condemning the attitude that "if a man sleeps around, he's cheered on. If a woman does, she's called a slut".

Paddy O'Brien ('Feminists Out Of Touch', July 15) drew attention to the fact that "women are routinely flogged and sometimes beheaded for the 'crime' of adultery in some Islamic countries" but, apparently, the man with whom she consorted goes unpunished.

Such unequal treatment is utterly despicable, but the general tone of the feminist narrative, that women should have the same sexual liberty as is currently 'permitted' to men, is much more questionable. Perhaps the correct attitude should be that male sexual laxity should be treated in precisely the same way as that of women, not the reverse.

Martin D Stern

Salford, England


* This is the 100th anniversary of the 1913 Dublin Lockout, one of the biggest strikes in Europe at the time, with much hardship for the strikers and their families. Some 20,000 employees of powerful businesses in Dublin went on strike for not being allowed to join the new national trade union for skilled and unskilled workers, the ITGWU.

The employers did not object to small craft trade unions, but they did not want the national ITGWU as led by James Larkin, who they feared could cause havoc in their businesses.

There was an earlier lockout in Wexford, in 1911, with a more positive outcome. The foundry and engineering firms in the town did not want employees joining the ITGWU, and a strike involving more than 700 men followed. As in Dublin later, it was bitter and lasted six months, with replacement labour brought in locally as well as from Dublin, England and Scotland and protected on their way to and from work by 150 police.

The strikers were condemned as troublemakers in the papers and by the Catholic Church and got little support from the main Irish political party of the day.

Eventually, Labour Party socialist James Connolly was asked to help and stayed in the home of Richard Corish, one of the strike leaders. He negotiated a compromise settlement in two weeks and the employees were allowed to set up the Irish Foundry Workers' Union as an associate of the ITGWU. The men returned to their jobs, but Richard Corish lost his and became secretary of the union.

Reasons for the settlement were employers' fears that negative publicity could cause a loss of contracts, the fall-off in public support and the increasing departures of replacement labour who were seen as scabs.

A feature article by Kieran S Roche in the July/August special issue of 'History Ireland' concluded: "The voices of the Wexford foundry men were heard despite the objections from the pulpit, the wielded baton, the political cold shoulders and the alien scabs. The Wexford lockout marked a victory for workers over the established pillars of Irish society."

James Connolly was executed four years later after the 1916 Rising. I think an appreciation of history can be of value as it gives us a sense of identity and roots, and shows what others endured to achieve progress.

Mary Sullivan



* Buttons from the uniform of Michael Collins sold for more than €4,000. They didn't sell for buttons.

Tom Gilsenan

Beaumont, Dublin

Irish Independent

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