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More than half of Government's State boards fail to meet gender quota


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More than half of the country's State boards are falling short of the gender quotas set down in law.

Some 97 boards have less than 40pc female or male membership, with those under the remit of Agriculture Minister Michael Creed, Housing Minister Simon Coveney and Transport Minister Shane Ross among the worst.


Fianna Fáil Public Expenditure Minister Dara Calleary. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Fianna Fáil Public Expenditure Minister Dara Calleary. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Fianna Fáil Public Expenditure Minister Dara Calleary. Photo: Steve Humphreys

An analysis of 180 boards by the Irish Independent shows gender quotas are being largely ignored by ministers. This comes despite recent proposals from Mr Ross's department to withhold funding from sporting organisations unless they fulfil a gender quota on their boards.

Under laws introduced in 2014 all State boards are required to have a minimum of 40pc of both men and women.

The Public Appointments Service (PAS) is tasked with finding suitable candidates for a shortlist before a minister makes the final decision.

However, there is no penalty for boards that don't have the appropriate gender balance. While most boards are lacking in female members, a small number need more male representation.

None of the 12 boards under the Department of Agriculture meets the target of 40pc women. The National Milk Agency, which has 14 members, has no female representation at all.


Mr Creed said he was "personally committed" to achieving a suitable gender balance.

"In this regard I recently wrote to the chief executives of some agri-business companies asking them to support women within their companies who express an interest in being appointed to the boards of State bodies and to encourage those who may not as yet have considered putting themselves forward to do so," he said.

Mr Creed said six of the bodies under his aegis were subject to nominations from third-party organisations. These include Bord Bia, Horse Racing Ireland and Teagasc.

In contrast, the Department of Health has a 'man problem', with six boards under the remit of Simon Harris lacking men.

Read more: Women have talent - so why is politics in 2016 still largely a boys-only club?

These include the Health Information and Quality Authority, the Mental Health Commission and the Speech and Language Therapists Registration Board.

"In so far as possible when making appointments to State boards, I endeavour to ensure an appropriate balance between men and women," Mr Harris said.

Fianna Fáil's Public Expenditure Minister Dara Calleary said the Government must actively try to address the imbalance. He highlighted the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, where 18 out of 25 boards are not meeting the requirements. On this list are well-known bodies such as the Dublin Airport Authority, CIÉ, Tourism Ireland and Sport Ireland.

"The irony of Shane Ross and Patrick O'Donovan calling on sporting bodies to get more women involved when their own department is among the worst performing is almost funny," Mr Calleary said. "They were trying to use a stick for sporting associations when they can't do it themselves. This needs to be rectified and it can be. Elections are far more complicated, but these positions are appointments by ministers. They need to follow up the rhetoric."

In relation to agriculture, he said there was "no reason" why more women could not be involved. "There are perfectly qualified women in agriculture with something to contribute," he said.

"It's up to the Government to tell the Public Appointments Service to begin aggressively recruiting women. It is not a case of token appointments, there are plenty out there."

Read more: Gender quotas are not just a bad idea - they are actually harmful to women

Read more: FG ministers voice concern over Ross and O'Donovan's 'toxic' relationship

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