Gender quotas were introduced in the general election for the first time ever. Political parties needed to have 30% of women and 30% of men running in the general election or state funding would be halved.
Public opinion is split on gender quotas, but I believe there is need for them.
They are the most effective way of achieving a better gender balance in politics. Although it will take several elections before we see the full effect of gender quotas, the results from GE16 already show that we have elected more women than ever before, with at least 32 seats going to females.
Though that is a success, it is still only 20 per cent of the total 158 seats available in the Dáíl. So it is a step in the right direction but men still make up the majority of the government.
Ireland has always had female role models, and has been progressive in certain aspects. For instance Countess Markievicz, as minister for Labour in 1919, was the first ever woman to hold a cabinet position in the world. And we elected two female presidents in succession from 1990, with Mary Robinson, and Mary McAleese. So Ireland has always had strong women in politics, yet we have never had a female Taoiseach and there is only one woman who is the leader of a political party. So with more women entering politics, the chances increase for female Taoisigh and leaders.
One of the biggest pros for gender quotas is that it encourages women to run in politics, it helps break down the image of “an old boys club”. If it encourages women to run, because they think “well a woman has to get it, why shouldn’t it be me?” Then it is a huge success.
A counter-argument to quotas are they are discriminatory and it passes up men who may be better. They are not discriminatory, they instead try to compensate for an already existing discrimination against women by giving them more opportunities.
Finally, if a specific man really is the best for the job, then he would be on the ticket without hesitation, so it encourages more competition between candidates because there are now less seats available to men.
We won’t see the full effect of quotas for another 2-3 general elections but I believe they’re the right way to go.
The introduction of the Gender Quota Bill back in 2011 was and still remains an insult to women in politics. Enda Kenny, Michael Martin and many other politicians claim that it’s a way to ensure women are part of the cabinet but it is utterly demeaning to imply that women cannot enter Government without the aid of enforced regulations.
It is an insult to women such as Countess Markievicz, Mary Robinson and Máire Whelan, who earned their positions through hard work, determination and their own personal merit.
Furthermore, why would a woman be a better candidate just because she is a woman? This idea perpetrates inequality on the other prospective candidates who could be just as qualified and perhaps even better suited to the position.
The forced Gender Quotas will result in mass amounts of men who want to run as a candidate being prevented from doing so. Male candidates are neither more nor less entitled to run for election and these Gender Quotas are unfairly inhibiting them.
Brian Mohan was recently overlooked for candidacy because a woman was required more. He was just as suitable for the position but he did not receive it and the only reason he was passed over is because he is a man.
It also can and has resulted in parties seeking female candidates purely to reach gender quotas. This was seen in the controversial case of Fianna Fáil headquarters giving a directive for the selection of a female candidate in the Longford-Westmeath constituency.
Political parties should be working on ways to improve their policies to encourage the growth and recovery of our economy. They should not be focusing the majority of their attention on which constituencies need more female candidates.
The reason there aren’t enormous numbers of female candidates is not because they are unable to do so, it is because they do not have the right support behind them.
It is common practice that if a woman has children and they’re sick, then generally the mother takes time off work to care for them. This is not something that you could do if you’re in Government and that’s one of the bigger issues.
If we want an increase of female candidates then we must break down to social and personal barriers that are preventing them from doing so. Such as childcare, and a decline in the patriarchal political system which we currently have in place.