Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have lowest percentage of female local election candidates

Opinion: People-Before-Profit, the Greens, Sinn Féin and Anti-Austerity Alliance all meet 30 per cent benchmark

While men continue to significantly outnumber women candidates, there are more women contesting these elections than in 2009.

Fri, May 16, 2014, 00:01

On May 23rd, 2,040 candidates will contest the 2014 local elections, 1,599 (78.4 per cent) men and 441 (21.6 per cent) women.

While men continue to significantly outnumber women candidates, there are more women contesting these elections than in 2009. Then 314 (17.2 per cent) of the candidates were women.

The increase in female candidacy is welcome but leaves plenty of room for improvement, particularly given that the Electoral (Amendment) (Political Funding) Act 2012 obliges political parties to select at least 30 per cent women candidates at the next general election, rising to 40 per cent seven years thereafter. Parties which fail to reach the legal gender quota in those elections will lose 50 per cent of the funding they receive from the State to run their operations.

While the legal gender quota does not apply at local elections, a review of female candidacy rates across the parties reveals that People Before Profit (38.6 per cent), the Green Party (32.6 per cent), Sinn Féin (31.6 per cent) and the Anti-Austerity Alliance (30 per cent) have all met or surpassed the key 30 per cent threshold. The Labour Party has come close, with women comprising just over 29 per cent of its candidates. As the table shows, the Green Party, Sinn Féin and the Labour Party have all recorded increases in their percentage of women candidates since 2009 when their female candidacy rates stood at 22.1 per cent, 22.8 per cent and 23.1 per cent respectively. Women constitute 18.3 per cent of the total number of “other” candidates (those running for smaller political parties and as Independents). In 2009, this figure stood at 10.8 per cent.

The final figures for Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil reveal mixed results however. In 2009, 18.1 per cent of Fine Gael candidates were women. In 2014, women comprise 22.8 per cent of the total number of candidates running for the party, meaning Fine Gael has fallen short of its self-imposed 25 per cent gender target for these elections.

Fianna Fáil candidates
The increase in female candidacy in Fine Gael between 2009 and 2014 is encouraging but with a membership consisting of over 40 per cent women (the highest of the four main political parties), it was in a better position than most to meet its

own gender target. The under-representation of women among Fianna Fáil candidates in these elections has been well documented. With just 17.1 per cent women candidates, Fianna Fáil is falling short of its own gender target of 33 per cent for these elections but most disappointingly, the party has recorded just a slight increase on the percentage of women candidates it selected in 2009. If Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil continue in this vein and fail to meet the legal 30 per cent gender quota at the next Dáil election, they face losing between €700,000 and €1,000,000 on an annual basis in terms of State funding.

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