Newly formed Alliance for Local Quotas welcomes establishment of Electoral Commission
Published: Wednesday, April 06, 2022
The newly formed Alliance for Local Quotas, convened by the National Women’s Council (NWC), has welcomed the publication of the Electoral Reform Bill, which was discussed in the Dáil yesterday evening, and its provision for a new statutory, independent Electoral Commission.
This is an opportunity to address Ireland’s current democratic deficit in Local Government and tackle systemic gender inequalities in Irish political institutions. What is still missing from the Electoral Reform Bill is the introduction of quotas for local elections. The Alliance calls on all political parties to support such a provision to be included in the Electoral Reform Bill.
The Alliance welcomes the appointment of a gender balanced Commission and the provision for anonymous registration for persons whose safety may be at risk if their names are published in the register.
It is very positive to see the research, advisory and education role of the Commission outlined in the bill. This should be targeted towards barriers in participating in the electoral system and safeguarding equality of access and outcome for all, including Travellers, young people, disabled people and people from minority ethnic backgrounds.
Women remain vastly under-represented in Irish political institutions, government and political parties. The number of women elected to local councils, which stood at 16% in 1999, is only now at 25% over 20 years later. This is well below the EU average of 32% for women’s representation in local and municipal councils.
The Alliance calls on the Electoral Commission to use its competencies and functions to strengthen our democracy through promoting gender balance at all levels of political life and in electoral contests. This needs to include necessary change to support women’s and underrepresented groups access to elected office.
Caitriona Gleeson, CEO of Women for Election said,
“Representation of women in politics remains unacceptably low. At local level, only 25% of Councillors are women with significant disparities between rural areas and urban areas. The under-representation of women at any level of governance and decision-making results is a democratic deficit. Womens experiences and participation are vital to a healthy political life and democracy. Our democracy cannot afford to wait for three more local election cycles to see greater parity in local government.
We want our elected representatives in local government to better reflect the population they represent which means equal numbers of a diversity of women and men across the country including representation of women from different backgrounds, disabled women, ethnic minority women including Traveller and Roma women and women from marginalised identities and communities.”
Dr Caroline Munyi, Migrant Women's Health Coordinator, Akidwa said,
“Ethnic minority women interested in political candidacy report that ‘they didn’t fit’ or experienced rules and political culture as exclusionary. Increasing minoritised women’s inclusion in electoral politics requires confronting sexism, racism and other forms of discrimination. Combating underrepresentation of minoritised women demands specific and targeted measures including nested quotas and we welcome the opportunities this bill provides.”
Catherine Lane, Women in Local, Community and Rural Development Officer, National Women’s Council concluded,
“The Citizens Assembly on Gender Equality have made a clear statement that women’s low representation in all sectors of society needs to change and they don’t want soft measures, they want quotas. The electoral commission should now begin to identify the most appropriate mechanism to ensure the seamless extension of gender quotas at local level and oversight for their implementation.Better politics is not something we can wait for. We need legislation for gender quotas in local elections now, to see real change in our lifetime.”
The Alliance for Local Quotas, convened by NWC, is a collective of civil society organisations, local and national and academics working in political representation, to advocate for local quotas to increase women’s representation in Local Government.
Membership includes the Immigrant Council of Ireland, Akidwa, Women for Election, See Her Elected, Independent Living Movement Ireland, National Traveller Womens Forum, National Collective of Community Based Networks, Colette Finn, Dr Claire McGing, Dr Fiona Buckley, Margaret O Keeffe, Shane Gough and Sandra McAvoy
For more information or to set up an interview, please contact Silke Paasche, Head of Communications, NWC, Tel. 085 858 9104, firstname.lastname@example.org