ALL three of Fine Gael's female politicians on Dublin City Council are stepping down at next summer's local elections, the Herald has learned.
Councillors Clare Byrne, Edie Wynne and Mary O'Shea say the workload has lumped too much pressure on their family lives and careers.
The women, who are all mothers, have decided to leave the council in what is a significant blow to party headquarters.
Fine Gael currently has 12 councillors in the city, three of whom are female. The party will now attempt to field a number of first-time candidates in a bid to retain the seats vacated by its female contingent.
Cllr Byrne, who is a former deputy mayor of Dublin, last night said she has become "completely disheartened" with work as a local representative.
"I have a three-year-old daughter and I got major stick for missing meetings even when I was in the final days of my pregnancy," she told the Herald. "I can barely afford to put [daughter] Amber in creche.
"If I was a bit older, perhaps I'd stick the council out. But I'm turning 30 this week and I've just become so disheartened with it all.
"We don't have the support we need. Sometimes I'm out with my husband or with my friends and I'm getting pulled over about things.
"It's too difficult to be accessible every minute of the day."
Cllr Wynne admitted last night that it is "remarkable" that all three women in the Fine Gael group are stepping down.
"I've been on the council for seven years now and I really enjoyed it," she said. "But as you know, elections are very demanding. It's the right time to say goodbye. I have young grandchildren now to keep me occupied.
"However, I will continue to try and help people."
Meanwhile, Cllr O'Shea, who represents the Glasnevin-Cabra Ward, said she had to make a decision between council work and her career.
"It's very hard to find time for both your career and your council work and I had to make a choice," she said.
"I count myself very lucky to have served on the council for seven years and I certainly have no regrets."
WILL THIS COUNTRY EVER SEE A FEMALE TAOISEACH?: SEE PAGES 34 & 35