independent

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Deputy McDonald aspires to get more women into politics

Anne Campbell

Published 12/03/2014 | 05:20

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Kathleen Tuite gives Mary Lou McDonald TD a hug at the Sinn Fein ‘Women Inspiring Change’ event to celebrate International Women's Day.

SINN Fein deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald was in Dundalk on Friday on the eve of International Women's Day and met a number of groups including Cara Cancer Support and Women's Aid after speaking at DkIT earlier.

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In an interview with The Argus, Ms. McDonald said women remain unrepresented in the Oireachtas and Stormont where elected representatives are still 'overwhelmingly men' and while this stays the same, 'we can't claim that we have a representative democracy when 50 per cent of the population are invisible'.

One of the many reasons more women don't get involved in politics is the fact that political institutions in Dublin and Belfast are seen as 'very male', according to Ms. McDonald, who said 30 per cent of Sinn Fein's local election candidates will be female this year but the party 'still has a huge amount of work to do' to attract more women into politics.

She said: 'When women are under-represented in parliament and public life, everyone misses out. I feel a responsibility, as a woman, to do what I can to facilitate other women to come into politics and public life'.

Making politics more appealing to women means 'finding practical solutions', including making Dail and Stormont sittings more family friendly.

Ms. McDonald said she supports quotas, where parties would be obliged to field a specified percentage of women candidates in elections.

'We have to actively intervene otherwise it will be 300 years before there is gender balance in Leinster House,' she said. 'And even with a 30 per cent quota system, there would still be 70 per cent male. There is no point in saying that quotas are not contentious, they are, and we wouldn't need them if we lived in an ideal world'.

She rejected any suggestion that women are being chosen as candidates just because of their gender.

Deputy McDonald said: 'The women we are running (in May's elections) are first class and top of the range political candidates. There is no 'token woman' on the ticket'.

The Argus

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