herald

Friday 9 December 2016

FF hopefuls fear being 'shafted' due to gender quotas

FF leader Micheal Martin
FF leader Micheal Martin

A number of Fianna Fail politicians face the prospect of being blocked from a potential general election run because of the party's ongoing struggle to meet the strict gender quota targets.

The party is considering issuing a diktat to a number of constituencies to ensure female candidates are on the ticket in a move that will cause consternation among male hopefuls.

A party source said "all options are on the table" including asking male candidates to withdraw their nominations.

The gender quota rules, which state that 30pc of parties' candidates must be female or else funding will be lost, have proved particularly challenging for Fianna Fail. The party currently has no female TDs and just one female Senator.

The most problematic of constituencies for Fianna Fail is Dun Laoghaire.

Sitting councillor Cormac Devlin is the favourite to win the convention - but his supporters believe he will be "shafted" to pave the way for either councillor Kate Feeney or Mary Hanafin.

Dun Laoghaire is expected to be one of the last selection conventions to be called by Fianna Fail as party figures consider what approach to take.

One option is to inform Mr Devlin that he cannot contest the convention because an all- female ticket is being pursued.

While councillor Jennifer Cuffe is also nominated for selection, it is widely expected that she will withdraw.

Headquarters

There has been speculation that she may be asked to run in the Wicklow/East Carlow constituency instead.

In Dublin South Central, the party is expected to ask Daithi de Roiste to step aside to pave the way for Catherine Ardagh.

The Herald revealed last month that the Ballyfermot- based councillor has already been asked to withdraw by party headquarters but refused the request.

The row, which was brought to the attention of Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin, prompted the party to postpone the selection convention. Outside of Dublin, the party may impose women on tickets in Leitrim, Cavan/Monaghan and Louth.

Fine Gael, Sinn Fein and the Labour Party are all on course to meet their respective gender quota targets, sources in all parties said.

Fianna Fail commissioned a report by the so-called Markievicz Commission, which stated that up to 27 women will have to be found for candidacy ahead of election day.

The report also recommended that the party should consider issuing a request to some female candidates to change constituency in order to spread numbers available to run.

Ordering certain constituencies to select a woman at selection conventions in order to boost female representation also formed part of the recommendations of the Commission, which was chaired by Professor Yvonne Galligan of Queens University. The report states that the "principles of fairness and equality of opportunity" must be at the core of the party's selection strategy.

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