Wednesday 23 January 2019

Varadkar floats idea of job-sharing to bring more women into politics

Inaugural event: Historian Mary Beard spoke at the International Women’s Caucus in Dublin Castle. Picture: Maxwells
Inaugural event: Historian Mary Beard spoke at the International Women’s Caucus in Dublin Castle. Picture: Maxwells
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

Job-sharing in Government and parliamentary substitutes have been mooted by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar as ways to get more women involved in politics.

Mr Varadkar was speaking at the inaugural International Women's Caucus in Dublin Castle - organised by the women's caucus in Leinster House, led by Green Party deputy leader Catherine Martin.

The event also heard from a number of international speakers including historian Mary Beard.

The Taoiseach noted that only 19 women have reached Cabinet and things must change. He said the answer lies in getting more women elected. Fine Gael hopes to get 30 female TDs elected at the next election.

He said selection committees, a lack of money and a lack of encouragement which can beget a lack of confidence were among the barriers facing women in politics, while childcare and other caring duties can also pose a challenge.

"I think we need a change in our culture as well as a change in our policies.

"In other countries, for example, it's possible for women and men to take a year out to look after their newborn children with their substitute either on their B-list of their parliamentary list replacing them," he said.

"To do so in Ireland would require a modification to our electoral system, but it's perhaps something we can consider, something which I think would be beneficial to women and to men."

The Fine Gael leader also floated the notion of adopting job-sharing, common in the public sector, at Government level. "I think perhaps we should give consideration into the future of having job-sharing roles in Government which is something that is increasingly common in the private industry and the public service," he said.

A new Citizens' Assembly on how gender equality can be further promoted is set to be convened by the Government.

Mr Varadkar said many of the scandals of Ireland's past "might have happened differently or not at all if there had been women sitting around the Cabinet table" and acknowledged there are better outcomes when there are diverse views at the table.

Mr Varadkar also said parts of the Constitution were "sexist and backward".

A planned referendum on the place of women in the home has been postponed due to concerns over the planned straight repeal of the article in the Constitution which says the State must protect a woman's place in the home.

Advocates of a different approach argue the clause should be replaced with gender-neutral language to protect the role of carers.

The Taoiseach warned that constitutional insertions can create a hierarchy of rights.

Meanwhile, former Tánaiste Joan Burton said she was concerned at the trolling of female politicians on social media and that this may discourage more young woman from getting involved in politics. She said there are comedians who have "made a living out of the inadequacies of my voice".

Irish Independent

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