'Fundamental cultural shift' needed to get women into politics - FF

Party outlines plans to boost female candidates in local elections

Senator Averil Power said one of the problems for women in the past have been existing incumbents but there were now a lot of openings for the next election Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish TImes

Senator Averil Power said one of the problems for women in the past have been existing incumbents but there were now a lot of openings for the next election Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish TImes

Tue, Jul 30, 2013, 14:36

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said a “fundamental cultural shift” was needed to enable women to get involved in politics.

He acknowledged that some “elements” of his party would have “concerns” about its plans to boost female candidates. “That is part of the challenge we have”, Mr Martin said as he launched the party’s “action plan” to increase women’s participation in politics.

“The idea of balance on the ticket has to get through. That is something we have to continue to sell to the party”, he added.

It was “not satisfactory” that the party currently had two female senators and no female TDs, he said.

The party’s plan included targets for a third of its local election candidates next year to be female. It identifies five barriers to women’s participation: confidence, cash, candidate selection procedure , culture and childcare.

The plan was part of the “renewal” of the party and it was essential to “dramatically increase participation” of women “particularly at electoral level” , Mr Martin said.

Senator Averil Power said one of the problems for women in the past have been existing incumbents but there were now a lot of openings for the next election giving an “incredible opportunity” for new candidates.

The party wanted women not just to be elected but to be “retained” which was a particular issue for women at national level, she said.

There was a need for real change in Leinster House to make it more family friendly in terms of working hours and in terms of maternity leave for female members.

The appointment of a gender equality officer was among the measures outlined in the party’s proposal , as well as a new women’s network, fundraising campaigns for women and aims for a third of local area representatives to be women. Of 83 local area representatives appointed in recent years, 28 per cent or 24 were women.

Micheal Martin said there was “no manifestation” that the vote by the majority of parliamentary party members against the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill would have an impact on desire women to take part in Fianna Fáil.