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Focus on gender misses vital point

Madam – While there is validity in some of what A Leavy says in his letter (Sunday Independent, April 6, 2014), it is clearly impossible to quantify the relative abilities of those men and women who were, or are, passed over for selection as Dail candidates, appointment to office, etc, for various reasons not related to their abilities, so concentrating on the waste of female talent in particular runs the risk of being simplistic.

The percentage of TDs who are female is 15 per cent, but while there is certainly no law of nature that this should remain so, it is equally true that there is no such law that this should be at any other particular level (and the same can be said in relation to men).

A major valid question that arises in relation to all-female quotas is how many female candidates will be chosen primarily for their ability and how many because they have the right connections, or simply to fill the quota. Indeed, this question is the same (except for the last part) as can be asked in relation to male candidates.

Some apparently believe the primary role of female TDs should be to represent the interests of women and see this as a justification for quotas, but this is to ignore the fact that TDs, regardless of their own gender, are elected to represent the interests of all their constituents, and it would make no sense for men in particular to vote for female candidates whose main interest was the advancement of a narrow "women's issues" agenda.

Besides, it it just as fallacious to imply that male TDs are not capable of adequately representing the interests of women as it would be to suggest that female TDs are incapable of representing the interests of their male constituents.

I believe the introduction of quotas, with its narrow focus on gender, is a simplistic measure which misses the most important point, which is how to ensure that the most able people, irrespective of their gender, or the schools they went to or the clubs they belong to, are selected as candidates (or appointed to office).

This will require changing the political system itself in order to encourage such people to put themselves forward.

Hugh Gibney,

Athboy, Co Meath

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