FORMER junior minister Lucinda Creighton will not be entitled to maternity leave after the birth of her child – due to a quirk in the law.
Female TDs are paid their full salary after they give birth to a child. But there is no legal right for them to take paid maternity leave because they are classed as "office holders" rather than public sector employees.
Ms Creighton, who is due to give birth to her first child before next May's local and European elections, has said there is a need to encourage young mothers to stay in politics.
However, she was one of the government TDs who expressed concern about the practicalities of a Fianna Fail bill earlier this year to give maternity leave rights to female TDs and senators.
"We are officeholders, not employees, as Oireachtas members. We do not fall within the statutory employment protection legislation because we are not employees," she said then.
It comes as the latest 'Sunday Independent'/Millward Brown opinion poll showed that support for the formation of a new political party had risen by six points to 46pc – almost half the electorate.
However, Ms Creighton and her husband Senator Paul Bradford have not given any commitment that their Reform Alliance will be turned into a registered political party. It is made up mainly of Fine Gael TDs and senators who lost the party whip for voting against the abortion bill.
Ms Creighton herself has acknowledged that it has proven impossible for some female politicians to stay involved in politics.
The best-known examples are former Fine Gael TD Olwyn Enright and former Independent TD Mildred Fox, with colleagues saying they could not juggle rearing children with politics.
Under the current system, TDs who give birth are given permission to miss Dail votes by their party chief whips.
This is done by pairing them with a TD from an opposing party who agrees not to vote in their absence.
But while they may miss votes, many of them continue to do constituency work for fear that their rivals will gain votes in their absence.
Some moves have been made in the Dail to make it a more family-friendly place.
Baby-changing facilities have been put in the disabled toilet opposite the visitors' bar in Leinster House.
But the nearest creche to the Dail only opens from 9am to 5pm, so it is no use for TDs with young children if the Dail is sitting late.