Monday 11 December 2017

Liz O’Donnell: The quota debate for the Dail is over, now let's get on with voting in some smart women

I RECALL hearing a radio interview with Irish actor Stephen Rea. When asked why he chose to live so long outside of his native Northern Ireland he replied wearily and wryly that he was "tired of having the same conversation". I feel that way myself when the topic of gender quotas for women in politics raises its knotty old head. Watching a 'Prime Time' debate last week I found myself torn between shouting at the telly and just retreating under the duvet with the remains of Edna O'Brien's delightful memoir 'Country Girl'.

In the event, I stayed up to hear the predictable ping pong of pros and cons. How quotas were "insulting" to women; how tokenism is not really progress; how true equality and better participation of women in politics can be achieved not by quotas but by changing the way politics works and functions, making it more family friendly and so on.

The TV panel included two former female ministers, Gemma Hussey, a long-time advocate of gender quotas, and Mary O'Rourke, who argued against them. Miriam O'Callaghan chaired the predictable bout.

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