State not doing enough to encourage more women to enter politics, human rights watchdog warns

Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) identifies ‘structural barriers’ to women’s representation in politics

Progress on improving the representation of women in Irish politics has been “negligible” in the last six years, a new report has said.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) has criticised the slow progress in recent years with the number of women TDs increasingly only marginally from 22 per cent in 2016 to 22.5 per cent in 2022.

The Commission’s latest report to the UN also highlights that only a quarter of members of local authorities are women.

The State must address the structural barriers preventing women running from office, which the commission identifies as childcare, cash, confidence, culture and candidate selection procedures. These were first identified in 2009 by a Joint Oireachtas Committee.


It also identified the manner in which women are targeted on social media as another deterrent to them entering politics.

Noting at the time of writing that the Government has postponed plans for a referendum on “women’s place in the home”, it called on it to publish “robust proposed wording including a constitutional amendment to recognise and support care in the home and wider community”.

It said that Ireland continues to suffer from “patriarchal institutional legacies” which compromise women’s health.

The Committee will ask the State to provide information on the proportion of the overall health budget spent on women’s health and particularly those aspects of women’s health that are based on gender.

It criticised the failure of the Government to implement the recommendations of an independent review into the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018. Women are still travelling abroad for abortion services due to restrictions relating to gestational limits and fatal foetal anomalies, it said.

The commission identified a lack of political will to implement the recommendations of the independent review.

Chief commissioner Sinéad Gibney said: “This report will independently inform the UN questioning of Ireland. It highlights the broad spectrum of current equality challenges facing women across workplaces, politics, health, representation and broader society and it makes clear recommendations for progressive action.

“Today’s report shows that while there have been some positive developments in recent years, the exceptionally slow pace of change in ending discrimination against women in all areas of Irish life is extremely frustrating.

“There are significant gaps – in areas such as healthcare, political participation, poverty and the impact of climate change – which need to be seriously addressed.”

The submission will be made to the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). The Government will be invited to provide a response.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times