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Fewer women candidates in this election But we could elect 33 women to the next Dáil!!

Published: Monday, April 22, 2002

Launch of NWCI election leaflet, Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin

'Despite Ireland's economic growth, women are still being left behind' declared Gráinne Healy, Chairwoman of the National Women's Council of Ireland (NWCI). 'The NWCI is committed to ensuring that election candidates take cognisance of women's priority issues, childcare, economic independence, health, concerns of women in paid and unpaid work and violence against women' she continued. 'The under-representation of women in decision-making and the lack of meaningful funding for the women's sector are critical issues for women' added Ms Healy.

'The next Government must achieve a 60:40 gender balance within parties, in local, regional, national and EU structures by tying party funding to the achievement of gender parity' stated Ms Healy. 'Women will not accept patronising promises. We will work towards gender parity and the democratic representation of women in numbers, which reflect that we are not a minority, but are 50% of the population' she continued.

'The NWCI election leaflet Vote to make a difference for women is being coupled with meetings with the political parties to outline our demands for the next programme for government' she continued. 'We would like to appeal to our members and supporters, to use the leaflet as a resource when politicians call seeking their vote' added Ms Healy. 'The votes of Irish women are a powerful tool. We can make the difference in this general election, by voting for those, who support women's rights' concluded Ms Healy.

Dr. Yvonne Galligan, Director of the Centre for the Advancement of Women in Politics, Queen's University, Belfast said that we could see up to 33 women returned to the Dáil with positive voter support. 'This could be done despite the decrease in the proportion of women candidates running
in this election' she added. Ms Galligan explained that at the moment, 61 party women are running in this election, making up 19 per cent of all party candidates. At the last election, 65 party women contested, just over one fifth of candidates. 'An even greater cause for concern is the fact that in 10 constituencies, voters will not have the opportunity to vote for a single woman party candidate' added Ms Galligan. 'In 20 constituencies, supporters of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael will not be able to vote for a woman. This is worse than in 1997, when there were no women from either of the two major parties in 17 constituencies' she continued.

'These figures tell us that all parties have done little, if anything, since the last general election to nurture political women. None have taken the gender balancing of candidates seriously' stated Ms Galligan. 'Voting to make a difference for women will bring about a better gender balanced parliament. It will also bring forward a new dynamic in the parliamentary culture. This dynamic will be more sensitive to gender roles in the labour force and home, more responsive to gender-related issues and more concerned with prioritising policies that benefit women's and children's lives' she concluded.

Deirdre O'Connell, Europa Donna Ireland, the Irish Breast Cancer Campaign, said that BreastCheck is behind schedule in reaching the target population for Phase 1, women between 50 and 64 in the Eastern half of the country. 'Early detection saves lives and this essential screening programme must be rolled out throughout Ireland as quickly possible' stated Ms O'Connell. She went on to say that treatment in Multidisciplinary Specialist Breast Units has been shown to improve survival rates by 20%. 'The establishment and resourcing of the 13 units agreed by the Minister for Health has been disappointingly slow' she added. '23.5m Euro has been allocated to the Health Boards for all oncology services for 2002. This is not sufficient to provide the full resources needed to deal with breast cancer, let alone with all cancers' she concluded.
Mary Dunne, Fingal Centre for the Unemployed and Finglas Citizens Information Centre (CIC), highlighted the importance of medical cards for all children under eighteen and for those on the minimum wage. 'Women in low-income areas have a history of neglecting their own health in favour of their children's health because they cannot afford GP's fees' declared Ms Dunne.
Fiona Dunne, Equality Officer ESB Officers Association, stressed the importance of moving all those on the minimum wage out of the tax net.

Marlene McCormack, IPPA the Early Childhood Organisation focussed on the importance of affordable, quality childcare for women attempting to engage in training, employment or education. She also spoke of the benefits of quality childcare in the development of the child.