Call for gender balance in Cabinet


Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton has told an International Women’s Day event that the Cabinet should have a 50/50 gender balance.

Speaking at the An Cosán lunch in the Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin, Ms Burton described as “disappointingly low” the total number of women in the Dáil and in the Seanad.

“People have speculated that I might have had a little disappointment this time last year, but actually my real disappointment on joining the Cabinet was that it wasn’t a Cabinet of 50/50,” she said.

Ms Burton was referring to her appointment as Minister for Social Protection, instead of being elevated to an economic ministry as had been widely predicted.

“There are about 17 people who sit around the Cabinet table and just three of those are women: two women members of Cabinet and one minister of state [Jan O’Sullivan]. We also though have a woman Attorney General [Maire Whelan], the first,” she said.

“So women are breaking a lot of glass ceilings but there’s no doubt that in politics we don’t have a critical mass of women which would lead to, if you like, a rainbow Cabinet in Ireland with much stronger representation of women and men.”

Ms Burton said in that case, to quote former US president Bill Clinton, “you wouldn’t always be bean-counting”. She added: “You would just see women and men there in roughly equal numbers representing all of the experience that both have to bring.”

Earlier, journalist Olivia O’Leary, speaking at the Women for Election event in the Mansion House in Dublin, said “we need to start talking about a requirement for Governments to have at least 30 per cent of females in Cabinets”.

Ms O’Leary said to encourage more women into politics, they needed to see more role models.

Follow Mary Minihan's rolling coverage of Women's Day and join the debate HERE.