Sinn Féin criticised for choosing male byelection candidate

Women’s Council ‘disappointed’ over selection of Cathal King in Dublin South West

Sinn Féin’s Cathal King: to contest Dublin South West byelection. Photograph: South Dublin County Council

Sinn Féin’s Cathal King: to contest Dublin South West byelection. Photograph: South Dublin County Council

Mon, Sep 1, 2014, 16:30

Women’s groups have expressed disappointment in Sinn Féin for not selecting a female candidate for the Dublin South West byelection.

The National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) and campaign group Women for Election were reacting after Cathal King was yesterday chosen ahead of Máire Devine as the party’s candidate for the poll, which could take place as early as Friday, October 10th.

In June, Mr King was praised by women’s groups when he said he believed the party should chose a woman candidate and said he was standing aside to promote gender equality.

However, he told The Irish Times today he was persuaded to change his mind by colleagues, many of whom were women, and was nominated by MEP Lynn Boylan and seconded by Councillor Sarah Holland

The byelection is being held to fill the vacancy created by the departure of Fine Gael’s Brian Hayes’ to Europe.

Mr King said he was the only candidate in the field when he was nominated by his cumman.

Ms Devine’s cumman nominated both candidates the following week, he added.

Women for Election co-founder Michelle O’Donnell Keating said the organisation was “surprised” Mr King allowed his name to go forward given his previous comments.

“Surely the reasons he believed a female perspective was valuable and necessary at this time have not changed in a short two months?” Ms O’Donnell Keating said.

“Strategically, this was a challenge for Sinn Féin...It is disappointing that the opportunity to make a statement as Cathal King put it himself is one he no longer wishes to make.”

A Women’s Council spokeswoman said: “NWCI is disappointed that a woman was not selected at convention last night, especially given the very public statement in favour of female party colleagues earlier this year.”

She noted Sinn Féin had done a lot of work internally in order to boost the number of women going forward for election for the party.

However, a Sinn Féin source strongly defended Mr King’s selection and his record as a councillor. “There would be a view that he is the best councillor that we have in Dublin and he has achieved significant things, both in terms of relationships with other parties and with council management, that none of our other candidates have managed.”

Mr King topped the poll in Tallaght South in the local elections in May with 2,449 first preferences, while Ms Devine topped the poll in Tallaght Central with 2,874 votes. The four-seat Dublin South West constituency already has a sitting Sinn Féin TD, Seán Crowe.

A Sinn Féin spokesman said Mr King was an excellent candidate who had been selected by fellow party members in a democratic process.

“We continue our work to promote women in politics as acknowledged by the National Women’s Council of Ireland,” he said.

“In the recent local and European elections we ran the highest number of women candidate of all parties and we elected three women to the European Parliament.

“Cathal is an excellent Sinn Féin representative and we are confident that this will be shown in the upcoming by-election campaign.”

Government has not yet decided when the byelection will take place, but Coalition sources say speculation is centring on the date four days before Budget Day.

However, another source suggested that voting in Dublin South West, along with a poll in Roscommon-South Leitrim to replace Independent Luke “Ming” Flanagan, could be postponed until shortly after the Budget on Tuesday, October 14th.

Mr Hayes and Mr Flanagan were elected in May’s European elections.

A byelection will also need to be held in Carlow-Kilkenny to replace Fine Gael’s Phil Hogan who will replace Máire Geoghegan-Quinn as Ireland’s European Commissioner in Brussels. He will take up the post in the autumn and a poll will be held in spring.