More women in politics will help Ireland, says historian


GREATER POLITICAL involvement by women in decisionmaking in Irish politics will help Ireland progress as a society, an academic has predicted ahead of a conference that will discuss women’s political representation.

Dr Sandra McAvoy, historian and lecturer in women’s studies at University College Cork, said Ireland had slipped internationally to 82nd in a world classification table of women’s representation in parliament.

There are 23 women in Dáil Éireann, accounting for just 13.85 per cent of seats. The figure for Seanad Éireann is only marginally better, where 12 of the 60 senators – or 20 per cent – are women, she said.

Women account for 17 per cent of members of local authorities and just 12 per cent of the members of regional authorities, while in the last general election only 82 women out of 470 candidates were women, representing the lowest number of women since 1989, she said.

“Back in 2002, I think it was estimated that it would take 360 years for women to achieve equal representation in Irish politics, but given that the proportion of women in politics has decreased since then, it’s going to take even longer,” said Dr McAvoy.

Dr McAvoy was speaking in advance of a conference at UCC next month titled Moving in from the Margins: Women’s Political Representation in Ireland, organised by UCC women’s studies and the Political Studies Association of Ireland Gender Politics Specialist Group.

Fiona Buckley of the department of government at UCC said the conference would investigate the reasons why low numbers of women participate in politics, and examine various strategies that might be introduced to increase the number.

“The five Cs of childcare, cash, confidence, culture and candidate selection have been identified as key explanations for the exclusion of women from Irish politics.

The conference will address these and other relevant issues in the area of women’s political representation in Ireland,” she said.

Among the speakers at the conference, which takes place on September 18th, will be Senator Ivana Bacik, Prof Yvonne Galligan of Queen’s University Belfast, Joanne Vance of the National Women’s Council of Ireland and Dr Eileen Connolly of Dublin City University.

Other speakers will include Cathleen O’Neill of Kilbarrack community development project, Cork North Central Labour TD Kathleen Lynch and Susan McKay of the National Women’s Council of Ireland.