Minister urges higher gender quotas
Parties should aim for even split between male and female candidates, says Madigan Minister says women bring different perspective to institutions of State
Political parties may need to introduce gender parity in selecting election candidates if they do not reach that target naturally, the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan has said.
Ms Madigan said she is in favour of higher gender quotas than the minimum 30 per cent figure brought in by government for political parties in the State. Parties that fail to reach that threshold receive less State funding.
Speaking at the opening of the Parnell Summer School in Avondale, Co Wicklow, Ms Madigan said the timeframe to reach a 40 per cent threshold by 2023 should be speeded up.
She said political parties should aim for a 50:50 split in terms of candidate selection, but if that does not happen naturally “serious consideration” should be given to increasing the existing quota threshold from 30 to 50 per cent.
The last Fine Gael government introduced gender quota legislation. This obliged all political parties to have women making up at least 30 per cent of their candidates or risk having their State funding cut by half, she said.
“I know that, as things stand, Fine Gael is almost at the 30 per cent mark in its selection of general election candidates.
“However, in my view, we need to give serious consideration to raising this bar higher and we need to do it urgently.”
“It is not that women are better or worse than men but we do bring a different perspective, a perspective that is sorely needed in our representative institutions of State. We know from experience that diversity of opinion leads to better decision-making,” she said.
Reflecting on the centenary of the 1918 British general election in which Constance Markievicz became the first woman MP and later TD, Ms Madigan said full equality has not been achieved in the State 100 years on.
“We must take up the mantle once worn by Markievicz and so many inspiring women like her and work to ensure that our progress continues,” she said.
“Out of almost 4,500 seats filled in Dáil Éireann between 1918 and 2009, less than 5 per cent have been taken by women. Only 22 per cent of the current Dáil is female while the Seanad fares slightly better with 32 per cent female representation.
“Indeed, I’m only the 19th female cabinet minister since the foundation of the Irish State and the first ever female solicitor to sit at cabinet.”
Ms Madigan also called for a straight repeal of Article 41.2.2 of the Constitution which states that the State shall “ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home”.
The Parnell School continues until Thursday.
Meanwhile, UCD Professor of History David Farrell said a Citizens’ Assembly should be established to tease out the implications of mass immigration into Ireland.
He said Ireland has escaped the trend of right-wing populism which has been established in many Western democracies, but it would “naïve” to suggest it could not happen here.
Prof Farrell said the Irish political classes needed to anticipate that a “storm is coming” in terms of the issues that have fuelled the rise of far-right populism elsewhere in Europe.
He said the failure of the far-right in Ireland was due to the fact that Sinn Féin and other left-wing parties were the “populist” parties in the Republic.
He suggested that those parties had done the State a service in that regard and that right-wing populism was “far more dangerous” than left-wing populism.
However, he cautioned: “We have dodged a bullet so far. Populism is on the rise, it would be naïve to think it would not come here. It’s only a matter of time.”
Prof Farrell was the expert adviser to the Citizens’ Assembly whose deliberations helped frame the outlines of the abortion referendum which was carried by a 2:1 majority.
In my view we need to give serious consideration to raising this bar higher and we need to do it urgently Josepha Madigan