herald

Tuesday 17 October 2017

Gender quotas in local elections would be 'step in right direction'

Fianna Fail TD Niamh Smyth
Fianna Fail TD Niamh Smyth

Parties have rallied behind the idea of extending gender quotas to include local elections, in a bid to boost the number of women in politics.

Politicians from Fianna Fail, Sinn Fein and the Labour Party have all said they support the idea of quotas for council elections.

It comes after Junior European Affairs Minister Helen McEntee said the measure should be considered as a way of increasing the number of female TDs and ministers.

Fianna Fail TD Niamh Smyth said that gender quotas are not always popular but she sees them as "a necessary tool" in the short term "to get a critical mass of women involved in politics".

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She pointed to her own experience on Cavan County Council, where there were just three female representatives, and said she would support quotas being extended to local elections.

A Fianna Fail spokesperson said the party supported the gender quota brought in for the 2016 General Election and its policy is to increase participation by women at every level of the organisation.

She said the prospect of gender quotas for local elections would need to be "discussed in detail" and would require "a proper lead in time to allow all parties to prepare and comply".

Sinn Fein equality spokesman Donnchadh O Laoghaire said his party already has a policy that 30pc of its candidates are women at local and national level.

He said Sinn Fein would support the extension of gender quotas to local elections.

"Such a move would be a step in the right direction in achieving gender equality," he said.

Dun Laoghaire councillor Deirdre Kingston said Labour will have a gender quota of 40pc for the 2019 local elections.

She raised concerns about possible legislation for local election gender quotas being effective "as there is no State funding tied to the outcome of local elections".

Parties that fail to meet quotas in national elections face having their funding cut.

Ms McEntee was one of just two female junior ministers appointed by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, a situation that saw him come in for criticism.

She said that "the biggest problem" is that there were not enough female TDs for the Taoiseach to choose from to join the ministerial ranks.

She added that there was a need to increase the number of women in the Dail.

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