Saturday 24 August 2019

More than 200 women elected to council seats suggests 'sea-change' on the way

New Labour councillor Ciara Galvin – who campaigned with daugher Eabha – won in Celbridge, Co Kildare
New Labour councillor Ciara Galvin – who campaigned with daugher Eabha – won in Celbridge, Co Kildare

Nicola Anderson and Wayne O'Connor

With all the talk of the Green Wave, it was easy to overlook the fact that the tide also came in for women in the local elections.

Out of the 560 female candidates who ran in all areas of the country, more than 200 have been elected - with the possibility of more to come.

It still accounts for only 23pc of the candidates elected but it is a positive sign for the future.

Going into the weekend's election, all 19 sitting councillors in Co Offaly were men. But change is afoot after Social Democrats candidate Clare Claffey was elected in Birr while the Greens' Pippa Hackett secured a seat in Edenderry.

"Eight of us ran and two of us got in so at least we have some balance now.

"We didn't have that at all before," Ms Claffey said, adding: "We would have liked more but two is better than none.

"It was hard for us because we were up against sitting councillors.

"They were looking to retain their seats so the onus was on us to do something. We weren't well known, they had a profile and we didn't. But I am happy," she said.

Former Tánaiste Joan Burton said it has been a very positive election for her party with women accounting for around 40pc of successful candidates.

"There was a time when women often ran as second or even third candidates where they were on the ticket but their realistic hopes of being elected weren't that high -they were basically tokens," she said.

"What's happened now is that we've seen, in the Labour Party certainly, a string of strong young women candidates coming forward - I'm thinking of Ciara Galvin in Celbridge with her baby in the buggy campaigning in the main street and urging people to register to vote."

But much needs to be done at national level, with around 22pc of seats in the Dáil held by women, she said, pointing out that a woman had never been appointed Minister for Finance, Foreign Affairs or Defence.

Independent Senator Alice Mary Higgins said the political system was still stacked against women and must be changed. "The issues still stand," she said, adding: "The big question is retention.

"We don't have equality yet. We're kind of beginning to tilt towards a sea-change, though."

She believes women encourage more joined-up thinking which builds a more accurate picture of society, meaning spaces are designed more effectively and money is spent in a better manner.

Irish Independent

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