Saturday 23 March 2019

Dail 'lads' still struggle with the feared women issue

THE WOMEN’S ISSUE: Heather Humphreys’s elevation to Arts Minister was a step in the right direction, but Enda still seems uneasy with all this
THE WOMEN’S ISSUE: Heather Humphreys’s elevation to Arts Minister was a step in the right direction, but Enda still seems uneasy with all this

John Drennan

One of the few exquisite delights we are allowed in the Dail, is the difficulty the Leinster House 'lads' have with the women's issue.

The 'lads' do, of course, know that now that women are equal, there has to be more of them in the place.

And they are, of course, fully in agreement, particularly since there are votes in it, that in the new millennium women should play an equal role to men in Irish political life... except perhaps in their own particular constituency.

However, their secret unease with the whole equality thing, is all too frequently revealed by the awkwardness of the language used to describe their initiatives.

In the case of Fine Gael a preparatory course for female candidates was garlanded by phrases such as 'training camps'.

It gave the event something of a quasi militaristic feel where Fine Gael, in trying to find a goodly portion of female candidates, were engaged in some sort of war as distinct from a mildly progressive initiative. Of course, Enda has been in the wars on the women front for some time now.

Not even the promotion of Heather Humphreys has dissipated the perception that any school of feminism beyond being photographed with a bevy of smiling 'lovely girls' is a bit tart for Enda's tastes.

Labour inevitably are the good boys, or rather girls in all this. Sadly, Fine Gael's feminist woes are as nothing compared to their Fianna Fail civil war partners.

It is always embarrassing in the age of equality when Micheal, who, in fairness, instinctively gets on with the women better than Enda, can only summon two female Senators for the party photocalls.

Mind, when you see all the trouble that Mary Hanafin one caused maybe its just as well.

Despite good boy Micheal's best efforts, a certain ongoing unease about the woman thing was evidenced in Fianna Fail's latest invitation to the ladies.

The invitation to a 'woman's bootcamp' on the skills needed to succeed in politics was certainly clunkily worded.

Bootcamps after all are normally associated with delinquent teenagers.

Dear Leader Micheal claimed "The workshop marks the important next step of our campaign to support women who are interested in becoming involved in politics.''

One would think, if the need was genuine, that it was a bit late in the day to be courting the ladies.

And, sadly, whilst Micheal's bona fides are genuine, the reality is that many of the lads in the Dail view the women with the same warmth that is normally reserved for those delinquent teens.

In fairness though the difficulty is a cross party one, for even Sinn Fein have their woes.

Sinn Fein, as with many other issues, are better able to disguise their views.

By contrast, within Fianna Fail and Fine Gael in particular, both of whom need to acquire dozens of female candidates, the lads are openly annoyed about the distress this is causing.

John Drennan's Guide to Politics - Spring 2015

The next election will change your life. In a special supplement with the Sunday Independent, John Drennan presents his guide to Irish politics.

Perhaps, the most entertaining feature of the current difficulty is that the architect of all this trouble is Cute Old Phil Hogan.

It is ironic to think that for all of the fleas his enemies claim used to be hopping on Phil's political fur he is the author of the biggest 'democratic revolution' in Ireland since 1922.

Few would ever have thought Phil would go down in history as a feminist icon but sometimes we really are where we are no matter how odd it appears to be.

Unlike many, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald is certainly of the pint glass is half full mood.

Ms Fitzgerald told the Sunday Independent that the new scenario ''is not a negative in Irish politics, it's a positive for all parties, it is a particular positive for the parties that brought it in''.

She added: ''It is a real democratic revolution; if you don't have a parliament that reflects the people then you have an unfinished democracy.''

Ms Fitzgerald may be of that view, whilst Taoiseach Enda Kenny is such an avid convert he has pledged half the next cabinet will be of the female variant.

Sadly the Dail lads are finding it a little harder to join the party.

One supposes that like gay marriage the lads will some day get used to the concept of equal participation for women in politics.

With a bit of luck we might not even need to have a referendum on the issue.

For now though, when it comes to the women, whilst the flesh is always willing the spirit of feminism is still too weak.

Sunday Independent

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