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Sinead Ryan: I've turned heel on Dail gender quotas. Yes, we need them

Governments are often accused of being "more of the same", even after historic elections like this one, but where women are concerned, it is absolutely, depressingly, true. It looks like they will make up just 14pc of the new Dail.

It may be all change elsewhere, but it seems Mna na hEireann have decided that they can't be bothered going for high public office.

In fairness, more women candidates put themselves forward this time -- 86 in all -- still a mere 15pc of the total. Those that did, did well -- 26.7pc of them at time of writing were elected.

But it's still a man's world, despite all the calls for better female representation and all the hand-wringing over the issue.

Normally, I'm dead against forced equality measures like a gender quota. If you're good enough to stand on your own merit for any job, then do so, otherwise, don't bother -- after all, who wants to be selected as "second best" only because they have a vagina? I'm rapidly changing my stance.

Feminists such as Ivana Bacik and others fighting on the issue have often cited the lack of the 'Five Cs' as barriers: Childcare, Culture, Confidence, Cash and Candidate selection.

But hold on a minute, the Dail is light years ahead of industry in this regard and still they can't make it work.

Women TDs get a hefty basic salary of almost €100,000 a year -- plenty to pay for childcare.

Women running businesses, heading departments and becoming entrepreneurs have loads of confidence, thanks to those endeavours.

Surely we're past the culture problem -- even the men are saying we need more women in politics, which should look after the fifth: nothing is stopping them selecting female candidates if they want to, and yet there were four constituencies without a single one on their ballot papers. That's over 300,000 people who couldn't vote for a woman if they wanted to.

So for all the talk, if our national legislature can't get it right, what hope the rest of us? Reluctantly, I've come to the same conclusion as my more militantly left sisterhood -- a gender quota.


All parties had election manifesto promises on gender balance. Fianna Fail wanted a national top-up list system; Fine Gael proposes a Citizen's Assembly to make recommendations -- which sounds as much of a kick to touch as is possible, while Labour wants targets built into legislation.

With the current line-up, it looks like the Government parties will at least have a smattering of gunas on the benches while Fianna Fail didn't even return one single, measly female TD.

Talk and no action, it seems to me. It shouldn't matter -- after all REAL equality is getting the right person for the right job, however females make up 50pc of our country and 50pc the voters. They're 50pc of our children, our future taxpayers and our contributors to society. Surely, surely we have to try harder to make them 50pc of our lawmakers.

We are way below figures elsewhere, which only adds to the embarrassment. Nordic countries, so progressive in everything else, have 41.6pc women MPs. In the rest of Europe it may be just 20pc, but that's still batting way above us.

So there may just be a handful of them, but can we finally rely on them to shout a bit louder than they have been doing? Well done to all the new women TDs. But now your work really starts: make it your business to add to your number by making it easier for others to do what you did.

Show them how by changing the system, not just following the boys.