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Female TDs back Frances to stand in FG leadership race

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Fine Gael TDs Josepha Madigan, Kate O’Connell, Maria Bailey and Hildegarde Naughton make their way back to Government Buildings following a Fine Gael International Women’s Day photocall. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Fine Gael TDs Josepha Madigan, Kate O’Connell, Maria Bailey and Hildegarde Naughton make their way back to Government Buildings following a Fine Gael International Women’s Day photocall. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Fine Gael TDs Josepha Madigan, Kate O’Connell, Maria Bailey and Hildegarde Naughton make their way back to Government Buildings following a Fine Gael International Women’s Day photocall. Photo: Gerry Mooney

A series of Fine Gael women politicians have expressed support for Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald entering the party's upcoming leadership race.

However, they stopped short of publicly backing her to succeed Enda Kenny.

Ms Fitzgerald has said she is "very seriously considering" a bid for the leadership after Mr Kenny makes his intentions on his future known after his return from his trip to the US for St Patrick's Day celebrations.

Ministers Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney are viewed as the main contenders in the battle to assume the leadership - but there's a growing view in the party that there should be a third candidate.

Several female Fine Gael TDs and senators assembled to highlight their work on behalf of women ahead of today's International Women's Day and the Irish Independent asked if it's about time the party had a woman leader.

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Dublin Bay South TD Kate O'Connell said: "We may have a woman declare her intentions to run.

"Frances Fitzgerald may put her name into the ring so we'll await that. But I don't think it's about being a man or a woman. It's about the person who's best for the Fine Gael party into the future," she said.

She added: "It's a pity in this day and age" that the portraits of former taoisigh in Leinster House all depict men.

"We'll see this time - but hopefully within my lifetime I'd hope to see a female taoiseach," she said.

Junior Health Minister Helen McEntee said: "I think it's past time that a lot of parties maybe had a female leader."

She said the qualities of the individuals seeking the leadership are more important than their gender and she would encourage anybody interested in the leadership to put their names forward.

Dublin Rathdown TD Josepha Madigan also said she firmly believes in meritocracy saying: "Tt's about the right person for the position."

She said it would be good to see Ms Fitzgerald put her name forward regardless of her gender, saying: "I think all competition is healthy."

Senator Gabrielle McFadden said: "I don't think there should be a female leader for the sake of having a female leader.

"I think Frances is very well placed to put her name in there and she's a great politician.

"She just so happens to be a woman.

"I think the best man or woman will win out in the end."

Dún Laoghaire TD Maria Bailey said she would encourage anyone that feels they would make a good leader to enter the race, but pointed out that the contest hasn't started yet.

She said her party has made progress in terms of increased participation in politics by women. "We are heavily represented by women especially in this term of Government. And with women, what we bring is a broad range of vision and ideas," she said.

None of the women politicians surveyed would say they would ultimately back Ms Fitzgerald if she did enter the leadership race.

Ms McFadden said: "It's a bit early to ask anybody who they're voting for because everybody hasn't declared yet, so we don't know who's on the ballot paper."

Fine Gael highlighted the Government's work which it says will positively impact on the lives of women, including Ms Fitzgerald's domestic violence legislation to improve protections available to victims.

The party also said it has brought in laws to introduce paternity leave and reduce the cost of childcare.

Ms Madigan is seeking a referendum to remove the reference recognising the role of women's "life within the home" from the Constitution.

Irish Independent