Tuesday 21 January 2020

Wide support for gender quotas in local elections

Fianna Fáil TD Niamh Smyth. Photo: Tom Burke
Fianna Fáil TD Niamh Smyth. Photo: Tom Burke
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

There is cross-party support for extending gender quotas to local elections in a bid to boost the number of women rising through the political ranks.

Politicians from Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and Labour have all said they support the idea of quotas for council elections.

This comes after Junior Minister Helen McEntee said that the move should be considered as a way of increasing the number of women TDs as many national representatives start out as councillors.

Fianna Fáil TD Niamh Smyth said that while gender quotas were not always popular, she saw them as "a necessary tool" in the short term "to get a critical mass of women involved in politics".

She pointed to her own experience on Cavan County Council, where there were just three women representatives and said she would support quotas being extended to local elections.

A Government spokesperson said that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said "he intends to discuss with his Fine Gael colleagues the introduction of gender quotas for local elections in 2019 on a voluntary basis".

A Fianna Fáil spokeswoman said the party supported the gender quota that was brought in for the 2016 General Election and its policy was to increase participation by women at every level of the party. She said the prospect of gender quotas for local elections would need to be "discussed in detail" and would require "a proper lead-in time".

Sinn Féin's equality spokesman Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire said his party already had a policy that 30pc of its candidates were women at local and national level. The party would support the extension of gender quotas to local elections as "such a move would be a step in the right direction in achieving gender equality".

Dún Laoghaire councillor Deirdre Kingston said the Labour Party would have a gender quota of 40pc for the 2019 local elections. She raised concern about possible legislation for local election gender quotas being effective "as there is no state funding tied to the outcome of local elections".

Parties that fail to meet quotas in national elections face having their funding cut.

Irish Independent

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