learn > news

Latest News

Let More Women into Irish Politics!!

Published: Thursday, March 07, 2002

International Women's Day Meeting and Debate, Government Buildings, Dublin

Muintearas, an Togra Oideachas Gaeltachta, Ballymun Women's Resource Centre, Longford Women's Centre, Cork Women's Poetry Circle and The National Women's Council of Ireland

Chair: Olivia O'Leary

Launch by John O'Donoghue TD, Minister for Justice Equality and Law Reform of two research reports:

  • Áit ag an mBord - Representation of Women in Decision-Making Structures for Local Development in Ireland
  • Politics Needs More Women - What the Irish Political System Must Do

'Ireland ranks 59th out of 120 nations in the world on women's parliamentary representation.1 This figure puts us lower than the European average (17 per cent), lower than the average for the Americas (16 per cent), lower than the Asian average (16 per cent), and even lower than the average for sub-Saharan Africa (13 per cent)' stated Dr Yvonne Galligan, Director Centre for Advancement of Women in Politics Queen's University Belfast. 'The persistent problem of women's absence from political and public decision making would cost very little but requires one essential ingredient - political will. Until women and men share power as equals, democracy in this country will remain an unfinished business' she conlcuded.

Máirín Nic Fhionghuin of Muintearas, an Togra Oideachas spoke in about the Áit ag an mBord - Representation of Women in Decision-Making Structures for Local Development in Ireland Report. 'Over the past decade, women's labour market, economic and social position in Ireland has undergone radical change. Despite this change, there has not been a significant increase in women's representation within decision-making structures at local and regional level in Ireland' declared Máirín Nic Fhionghuin. She went on to say that only 15% of those elected to local government in 1999 were women. 'Ireland occupies ninth place in a league table of levels of representation of women in Municipal Authorities in the 13 EU states for which statistics are available' she added.

Tess Murphy from Longford Women's Centre stated that the political party system continues to be strongly male dominated. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael between them took 74% of seats on County and City Councils in 1999' she said. 'At local level, only 12% of Ministerial nominees to Health Boards are women and five of the Health Boards have no women nominated by the Minister' she added. 'Other factors affecting women's representation include the lack child and elder care, public and community transport, as well as inflexible work, training and educational programmes' added Ms. Murphy.

Kathleen Maher of Ballymun Women's Resource Centre outlined some important recommendations, which emerged from NOW pilot projects including:

  • specific skills training for women on decision making, negotiation, lobbying, strategy development and presentation;
  • affordable and accessible child and elder-care and travel at local and regional level;
  • that the timing and conduct of meetings is organised in a manner to maximise women's participation;
  • the importance of establishing a clearly identified budget line for gender equality initiatives.

Catherine Naji of Cork Women's Poetry Circle listed the specific recommendations for Government action contained in the Áit ag an mBord research, which include:

  • the establishment of a National Support Structure for women engaged in local and community development;
  • the achievement of a statutory minimum 40:60 gender balance on publicly funded local and regional development organisations;
  • the establishment of new criteria and procedures for nominations to the local development structures, which incorporate gender equality.

Gráinne Healy, Chairwoman, National Women's Council of Ireland (NWCI) thanked the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform for funding the NWCI report Politics Needs More Women, which highlights the under representation of women at the national political level. 'Women represent half the world's population, yet in Ireland we are seriously under-represented in politics (12%), in the judiciary (7% High Court), in the Civil service higher grades (9% Secretaries General), in the Gardai (3% senior ranks), and in industry (3% top managers)' stated Ms. Healy. 'This Government and its predecessor have almost totally ignored the commitment to a 60:40 gender balance on state boards, with one or two notable exceptions' she added. 'We call on political parties to commit to achieving parity democracy as part of their election manifesto. We also call on the introduction of legislation, which will make 50% of funding for political parties dependent on a 60-40 gender balance among candidates for local and general elections and within their own party executive' concluded Ms. Healy.