Saturday 16 December 2017

Political parties need to select more women

Joe Leogue

SOME political parties are "abysmal" when it comes to selecting female candidates for elections - particularly in rural areas, according to a national advocacy group that aims to achieve equal gender representation in Irish politics.

Noirin Clancy, national chair of the 5050 Group, was reacting to a report last week in The Corkman that showed that just 19% of candidates for next year's local elections are female compared to 15% in 2009.

This despite the introduction of a gender quota law in 2012 that means that from the next general election on, a party will lose half its state funding unless women make up at least 30% of its total candidates.

"It's interesting if you look around the country at difference between urban and rural areas. We have said this to party leadership, the biggest challenge is in rural areas which tend to be more traditional," Ms Clancy said.

"Our biggest challenge is that culture. If you look at Dublin, for example, there are more women put forward, they make up 33% of the total number of candidates."

She said part of what the 5050 Group does is to act as a watchdog and keep pressure on the parties. "The leaders need to look at the candidate selection procedure and the nomination procedure, which is critical, particularly in identifying winnable seats," She said.

"Parties are abysmal in the selection of women and in preparation for the next general election that needs to be looked at closely and at what is happening at local level to stop women."

What of the counter argument that quotas will only lead to women being added to political tickets as a token gesture? "We have waited too long and nothing has changed. In fact, it has gotten worse, as seen in the last local elections in 2009.

"84% of councillors have always been men; we need a measure like quotas because nothing else has worked.

"There are lots of women who are competent and active so there is no reason why they should not be going forward as candidates for parties."

Ms Clancy said the nature of politics needs to change to make it more family-friendly to facilitate both women and men. "Fianna Fáil, for example, has over 30% female membership; the women are there. The political system and culture is male dominated and not very attractive to even men due to the hours and the nature of work which is not family orientated," she said.


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