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

The Irish Times - - Home News - RO­NAN MCGREEVY

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.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tion

“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

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