HALF of the positions at Cabinet after the next general election will be filled by women, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has pledged.
Last night he defended the Government's record on promoting women in politics and said the landscape will change when gender quotas come into effect.
He promised to ensure that the next Cabinet has an equal number of women to men - as long as he is returned as Taoiseach.
Speaking ahead of the European Council summit in Brussels, Mr Kenny said the proposal for a "50-50" split will form part of Fine Gael's election strategy.
"My belief is that if I have the opportunity at the next occasion to appoint a cabinet, it will be a 50-50 on merit, of men and women, so here's part of the strategy that we have to put in place to ensure that women are seen to be given the opportunity to play their fullest part in Irish society," he said.
The pledge by the Fine Gael leader is likely to be met by a mixed response among his own TDs and senators.
Four female politicians serve on the current Cabinet - Fine Gael ministers Frances Fitzgerald and Heather Humphreys and the Labour Party's Joan Burton and Jan O'Sullivan.
But several female Fine Gael TDs were known to be incensed over Mr Kenny's reshuffle of his junior ministers.
Prominent backbenchers such as Regina Doherty, Mary Mitchell O'Connor and Aine Collins were all tipped for promotion, but Mr Kenny instead chose to reward their male colleagues.
Mr Kenny said yesterday that the Government has "so much more to do" in terms of promoting women but that it has made significant progress.
"It's true that women make up approximately 50pc of our population. The Government has done quite a lot in terms of women," he told reporters.
"The numbers who sit around the Cabinet table is at a higher level than ever before.
"The numbers of women appointed to the Seanad is at its highest level than ever before. The Government has introduced a quota requirement for all political parties that at least 30pc will be women candidates in the next general election.
"We have made serious changes in terms of the judiciary and the important places women now hold in society. We have so much more to do and will do."
Mr Kenny announced details of the election pledge ahead of the final European Council summit of 2014.