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What would a female friendly parliament look like? What needs to be done to attract and retain women in the Irish political system?

Published: Tuesday, March 04, 2014

“A Parliament of all Talents: Building a Women-friendly Oireachtas”  will be launched today, Tuesday 4th of March, by National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI), with a call for the government to implement a number of  key recommendations highlighted in their study, to ensure that the Oireachtas becomes the symbolic, and actual home of gender equality in Ireland. Mary O’Rourke, Mary Lou McDonald, Mary Mitchell O’Connor and other politicians both past and present will discuss changes that could be made to the Oireachtas to encourage more women to view politics as a viable career option. Orla O’Connor, Director of NCWI will also speak at the event.

Orla O’ Connor, Director of NWCI said,
“For the sake of democracy and for the good of society, it is crucial that women can view politics as a viable career option where they can have a meaningful impact.  Women deserve and need to be at the table where decisions that affect all our lives are made. Currently like many national parliaments, women have not been properly integrated into the Irish parliament.  This has had a negative effect on the rest of society, with women excluded from vital economic and social discussions, and disillusioned with the political process. The Oireachtas must introduce policies that have the principle of equality at their core, so that it can be truly representative of all citizens.”

Mary Lou Mc Donald of Sinn Fein highlighted her experience of the lack of maternity leave for TD’s and contrasted it with her experience in the European Parliament. Mary Mitchell O’Connor spoke about how political life “impinges massively with home life.” Jim Glennon, former Fianna Fail TD, said that he “couldn’t have done politics when my children were young, even though I was already doing a busy job.”

Louise Glennon, Women in Politics and Decision Making Officer with NWCI said,
“NWCI’s report on a women friendly Oireachtas has highlighted six areas of reform.  These aim to deliver increased diversity and equality, as well as creating efficiencies within the Oireachtas”.
The recommendations include what needs to be done
• Creation of a more family friendly Dáil – maternity and paternity leave introduced, working more business hours and discontinuing all night debates and introducing video conferencing and remote voting;
• Promotion of women to Cabinet and devolve power to the Oireachtas members and Committee – apply a 40% gender quota to Cabinet appointments, committee chairs to be selected by secret ballot and outcomes gender proofed, whip system to be reformed;
• A Gender Audit conducted – clear plan needs to be established with indicators and benchmarks to make the institutions policies and practices more gender sensitive;
• Rules developed which promote a culture of respect – development of a “Code of Conduct” for acceptable and respectful behaviour in the Oireachtas;
• Investing in politicians – gender sensitivity training done as part of “Continuing Professional Development” programmes for Oireachtas members;
• Solidarity amongst female politicians promoted – all political groupings to designate a small amount of their funding to the establishment of a women’s caucus.

For more information, please contact Sarah Clarkin, Communications Officer, National Women’s Council of Ireland, Tel. 085 858 9104 or Louise Glennon on 085 858 5209.

Event Details
When:   Tuesday, 4 March, 2.30pm,
Where:  European Parliament Office, Molesworth Street, Dublin 2.