Election 2011: Where are all the Women Candidates?
Posted on February 08, 2011 at 10:50 AM
Women make up 50% of the Irish population, yet just 14% of our TDs are women. Remarkably, the situation is getting worse, not better. In 1990, on the crest of the wave promised by Mary Robinson's election as the first woman President, Ireland ranked 37th in a world classification of women in national parliaments. Today our position has plunged to 84th.
Why is this? At a recent seminar in Leinster House on "The Dáil of Tomorrow", senator and general election candidate for Dún Laoghaire Ivana Bacik provided the simple explanation: "Because we have never done anything to change it."
While other countries have taken positive steps to increase the political representation of women, Ireland has done nothing. We lag behind most of our European neighbours on this, coming 23rd out of 27 EU countries.
Dáil Éireann has never been less than 86% male. Since 1918, women have won only 219 of 4,452 Dáil seats.
What will the election on 25th February do to change things?
Not a lot, it seems. Just 15.2% of candidates are women. Last time around, in the 2007 election, women were 17.4% of candidates and became 13.8% of TDs elected. With the current proportion of women candidates even lower, and several high profile women TDs resigning, it is unlikely that the situation will improve as a result of this election.
To see exactly where each of the parties stands in terms of female candidates, take a look at the following list:
% of candidates who are female:
Fianna Fáil - 14.7%
Fine Gael - 15.4%
Labour - 26.5%
Green Party - 18.6%
Sinn Féin - 19.5%
United Left Alliance - 26.3%
Independents/Others - 9.2%
Labour is currently running the highest proportion of women (26.5%).
In 4 constituencies across the country, there are no women at all as candidates. 1 in 4 constituencies has no woman candidate from any of the three main parties. There are only 2 constituencies in the entire country where voters are offered the choice of women candidates from all three of the main parties - Dún Laoghaire and Longford-Westmeath.
How can voters elect more women to Dáil Éireann if the political parties aren't putting them forward as candidates in the first place?
In the remaining weeks before the general election, the NWCI will be focusing on this issue. We are calling on all political parties to commit to introducing legislation to ensure more women are put forward as candidates from now on. We are demanding that no more Irish elections will feature such an unbalanced ticket.
For a detailed breakdown of gender and candidate selection by constituency and party, visit Irish General Election 2011 Facts & Figures website, where Dr. Adrian Kavanagh of NUI Maynooth has compiled an extensive list.