'I don't believe quotas are a solution to imbalance'

 

Despite poor Dáil representation, most women TDs do not want gender quotas, writes MARY MINIHAN

A DISLIKE of quotas is shared by many women TDs, with some only reluctantly agreeing with a proposal that political parties be required to adopt gender quotas in candidate selection procedures.

Opinions among women deputies in Fianna Fáil were divided, as they were in the Opposition parties.

Fianna Fáil TD Beverley Flynn said it was important more women became involved in the formation of policy.

“The answer to the question is ‘yes’. There should be quotas. It’s appropriate at the present time. In an ideal world I wouldn’t agree with it – if there was better participation of women in politics. But given the situation as it is I just think it is necessary just to allow women to break through the ranks of the political party structures and to be represented on the ticket,” Flynn said.

Long-serving backbencher and former minister Mary O’Rourke insisted her position would never change.

“I do not agree with gender quotas for candidate selection. Such quotas are discriminatory. Nothing in my political life has led me to believe quotas are good or should be used.

“I think men or women should be put forward and selected as a candidate on ability.”

A proposal backed by Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny to impose quotas of women candidates was rejected by his parliamentary party after Lucinda Creighton strenuously objected to the proposal in March.

Creighton told The Irish Timesshe was not convinced women would be placed to run in constituencies where they had a realistic chance of winning a seat.

“I don’t believe quotas are a solution to gender imbalance in the Oireachtas or politics generally.

“The lifestyle is very unappealing to women, as is the culture within political parties. Introducing quotas is a very easy way to get people off the hook.”

However, Creighton added: “I don’t want to sound sexist in reverse.”

Her party colleague Olivia Mitchell, who responded with “a very reluctant ‘yes’”, said she was opposed to gender quotas “in general” but felt the “woefully low” number of women in the Dáil meant steps had to be taken to “jump-start” a process of boosting representation.

Mitchell agreed with Senator Ivana Bacik’s recommendation, in a report produced for the Oireachtas Justice Committee, that any change should have a “sunset clause” that would lapse when targets were met.

Launching the report last year, Bacik said Ireland was ranked in 84th position in a world classification of women’s representation in national parliaments.

Her report also recommended parties should face financial penalties unless one-third of their candidates in the next general election were women.

This view is supported by a number of women TDs in Labour, although Joanna Tuffy insisted quotas discriminated against women.

The committee on the Constitution has recommended the Attorney General examine the constitutional implications of introducing a measure under which a proportion of the funds allocated to political parties would be determined by the number of women candidates nominated for election.

However, “any measure which coerced political parties to select certain types of candidates or which imposed a quota in that regard would probably be unconstitutional”, the report said.

Sinn Féin has no women TDs. The party’s deputy leader is former MEP Mary-Lou McDonald.