herald

Saturday 16 December 2017

Who'd want to be a female politician in the Dail boys' club?

It's a "weird" place to work, according to Senator Averil Power.

Leinster House, that is. Sure, there's a general weirdness to our political system and voters can be forgiven for wondering if politics is as weird as it gets.

But as the new Dail term started this week, Senator Power was referring to levels of testosterone she has to encounter there.

It must be like going to work at a stag party every day. With just 27 women out of 166 TDs, less than 17pc of Leinster House decision makers are supposed to reflect 50pc of the electorate.

wo-manifesto

So what do women want in this new Dail session? Well, with four weeks to go, we want a female friendly budget.

Bear in mind the National Women's Council has said that each austerity budget has targeted women and women's organisations.

It's time then for a wo-manifesto - politicians need to remember that women make about 85pc of spending decisions in households across the country.

Mostly it is women who look after the most vulnerable members of our society; children, the elderly, the sick.

Most lone parents are women (87pc), struggling to cope. What about the women in the coping classes who are employed but with no disposable income and savings?

This Dail session needs to focus on them too.

Women often feel that decisions are made around them and about them, but that they are overlooked.

With only four women in the Cabinet it sort of feels like we're invisible when it comes to decisions that will have massive ramifications for us.

All parties are now bound by quota legislation, which requires them to field a minimum of 30pc female candidates.

Who would want to run I wonder? There's no doubt you'd be the subject of snide remarks if you did win a seat.

Across the water recently a Tory MP dismissed David Cameron's reshuffle, in which he promoted nine female MPs, as the "night of the petticoats" and "tokenism".

hypocrisy

Back in our Dail, remember Lapgate? When a female TD was pulled into the lap of colleague in the workplace and it was initially dismissed as 'horseplay'?

What about when Deputy Mick Wallace called a colleague Miss Piggy?

What about the disproportionate focus on female politicians' clothes, hair and number of children?

This Dail session matters for women more than ever before. What we don't want is a boys club with a strong whiff of clichés and hypocrisy. And a top note of here we go again.

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