Sunday 18 March 2018

FF are guilty of 'gender-mandering' say party veterans

Fianna Fáil's Mary O'Rourke
Fianna Fáil's Mary O'Rourke
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

Several veteran Fianna Fáil figures have rounded on the party leadership over the unprecedented decision to block a male councillor from contesting the general election because of the gender quota targets.

Fianna Fáil headquarters told Councillor Daithí de Róiste that he cannot be considered for selection in a move that has caused consternation within the party.

On Thursday, party bosses formally told Mr de Róiste that delegates should only consider voting for his council colleague Catherine Ardagh, whose father Séan is a former Fianna Fáil TD.

Senior party figures have admitted that Mr de Róiste was set to defeat Ms Ardagh at the upcoming selection convention in Dublin South Central.

However, the party took the decision to avoid taking a financial hit as a result of missing the 30pc gender quota targets. Fianna Fáil issued a similar recommendation to only select a female candidate in Dublin Central.

Last night, several veteran party figures strongly criticised the moves, which have been described as "gender-mandering".

Former minister Mary O'Rourke said the interference by headquarters makes a "mockery" of attempts to get more young people involved in politics.

"It is what I feared from the very beginning in relation to these gender quotas - that people would be excluded.

"This is wrong and it is a complete insult to men and women," she told the Irish Independent.

Ms O'Rourke strongly criticised the party's claims that it has a "legal obligation" to meet the gender quotas.

"That is not correct. This is all about money. It reminds me of the poem by WB Yeats, 'September 1913', and the phrase 'fumble in the greasy till'," she added.

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern also waded into the controversy, describing the gender quotas as "mad".

He told Newstalk: "I think it's mad. I think the idea that the person who works their way through the system, works their way through their branch, gets themselves popular with the public, then comes to the convention of the party and (the party is) saying 'yes, you have done a very good job in the last 10 years, breaking your neck in your community... but you happen to be the wrong gender, so go away'."

Another former senior minister, who asked not to be named, said he believes the party has "let itself down badly".

"It's a mess," the source said. "It sends out a brutal message to everyone looking in at how politics works."

Irish Independent

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