learn > press releases

Press Releases

Government misses key opportunity to increase women’s representation in local elections

Published: Monday, March 11, 2019

The National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) today said the Government had missed a key opportunity to increase women’s representation in local elections, following last week’s announcements that there would be financial incentives for political parties who run 30% women candidates at local level, alongside other soft measures. 

Orla O’Connor, Director of NWCI said,

“While NWCI welcomes any measures to increase women’s representation in politics, women cannot wait for equal representation, and quotas are needed in order to ensure real change in our lifetimes. The number of women in local government is so low that men out-number women in all regional decision-making structures in Ireland, and the number of women elected to local councils, at 16% in 1999, is only at 21% 20 years later. This means it could take over 100 years for us to achieve equality in local government. We cannot afford to wait.”

Laura Harmon, Women in Leadership Coordinator at NWCI said,

“Financial incentives for political parties, and measures such as supporting women councillors with young children are absolutely welcome, however it is a huge missed opportunity that these measures were not brought in alongside gender quotas, rather than instead of. Behind the blunt percentages, the numbers speak for themselves. Only 198 out of 949 are councillors are currently women. Currently 28 of the 137 local electoral areas are represented by all- male slates of councillors and just 6 of the 31 councils have a woman chair.”

Orla O’Connor concluded,

“Without quotas, the pace of change is too slow. We only have to look at State boards as an example of this: a 40% gender target was set for State boards in 1993 and it has taken a quarter of a century to reach that target without a quota. We can see from Dáil elections quotas work. We need more than soft measures to tackle the under-representation of women in politics.”

Ends /

For more information, please contact Sarah Clarkin, Communications Officer, 085 8619087.

Notes to the Editor:

NWCI advocates that quotas for local elections could be introduced by amending the Electoral Act 1997, Art 17 Sec 3, to allocate state funding to qualified parties based on their first preference vote at the preceding general election and the preceding local election.