'Party gender quotas are good for politics', lecturer tells court

Dr Fiona Buckley (Collins)

Tim Healy

A new gender quota law for political parties is "a reasonable course of action to address the historic under-representation of women in Irish politics", the High Court has been told.

Parties are now required to field 30pc male and female candidates in the next two general elections if they are to continue to receive State funding.

Dr Fiona Buckley, a University College of Cork lecturer specialising in gender politics, said the law would address under-representation for women.

She was giving evidence for the State in a continuing challenge against the State by Fianna Fail activist Brian Mohan in which he disputes the constitutionality of provisions of the Electoral (Political Funding) Act 2012.

His challenge came after FF directed its sole general election candidate in the Dublin Central constituency, where he wished to go forward for selection, must be a woman.

That direction came after it emerged in summer 2015 that just 10 of 47 candidates then selected by FF were women. Mary Fitzpatrick was selected to run in Dublin central last October.

The court heard yesterday that Ireland ranks joint 86th - with North Korea and south Korea - of 140 countries worldwide in relation to political representation of women.

Dr Buckley said statistics on female political representation here between 1977-2011 suggest the electorate is not biased against women and women's under-representation in the Dail is rather linked to the candidate selection process.

Irish political parties seem more inclined to select women as candidates for "second-order" elections, such as local elections, rather than first-order elections, she added.

Since the foundation of the State, just 15 women have held Cabinet positions and those were generally in the socio-cultural area, she said.


Dr Buckley said some countries have operated such quotas for several decades and women there have historically had greater access to, and participation in, many areas of public life.

Earlier, under cross-examination by Maurice Collins SC, for the State, Mr Mohan accepted he was "fundamentally at odds" with the policy of his own, and every other party in the Oireachtas, on the quota legislation.

He considered Fianna Fail "is being held over a barrel" because it would lose half of its annual Exchequer funding of €1.2m unless it meets the gender quota targets. It would be "impossible to function" without that funding.

The case continues.