Anne Philips seminal book The Politics of Presence (1995) contends that female political representation is essential if those issues that are of interest to women are to be advanced in public policy. In 1985 the Irish Government signed the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and in so doing committed to taking whatever measures were necessary to ensure gender parity in the political system. By 1997 just 12% of the TD’s in the Dail were women. In 2012 the FG/Labour Government passed legislation implementing candidate gender quotas linked to state funding for general elections. In the general election of 2016 the number of women elected rose from 15% to 22%. However the number for the 2020 General Election only saw a very modest increase from 22% to 23%.
The male dominance of the Irish political system has socialised women into seeing politics as not for them. Therefore women often lack the confidence to put themselves forward as a candidate. Childcare is still seen as the primary responsibility of women and therefore the lack of affordable childcare is also a barrier. The culture of politics and the male norms of behaviour in an adversarial combative type of politics turns most people off but especially women. All of these issues mean that women face a more difficult route to elected office.
The Green Party has always tried to support women into politics. In the local elections 2014 and 2019 the party fielded 32% female candidates with 25% of female candidates getting elected. In 2019 41% of candidates were women and 41% of candidates elected were women. In the GE2020 the party fielded 41% female candidates with 17% of elected candidates being women. The party nominated 3 female candidates for the Seanad2020 and two of those candidates secured a seat. There is also an urban rural divide with fewer women getting elected outside of Dublin for all parties.
An exciting new initiative the SHE –(See Her Elected) – Project has been set up funded by the Dept. of Housing, Planning and Local Government. This is to support women into politics, particularly in the rural constituencies of the North West and Midlands. A Regional Development Officer, Michelle Maher has been recruited. Prior to the Covid crisis Michelle had planned to meet with relevant groups/individuals to introduce the Project and organise some events. However, like many things, this aspect of the work is on hold. In the meantime Michelle will be delivering an introductory online 4 week course on Local Politics starting Tuesday 28th April .
If you would like more information or know of organisations that might benefit from this training you can contact Michelle by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by phoning: 086-0320455.
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