FG member resigns in protest at failure to nominate a woman

Woman named by the party’s National Executive as a potential candidate wrote to party officials yesterday

Samantha Long: “I’m really disgusted by the whole thing. It should have been a woman. It sends out the wrong message that women aren’t valued as much as men.” Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Samantha Long: “I’m really disgusted by the whole thing. It should have been a woman. It sends out the wrong message that women aren’t valued as much as men.” Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Samantha Long, one of the women named by the party’s National Executive as a potential candidate, wrote to party officials yesterday.

“I am disappointed for the many capable women in the party, none of whom was deemed worthy of a nomination for the current Seanad byelection. While not personally hopeful, I had hoped that the right signals would be sent out in selecting a female candidate for this vacancy,” she said in her letter.

Ms Long, who failed to secure a seat on Dublin City Council after contesting the Rathgar/ Rathmines ward in the local elections in May, is a Magdalene adoptee.

Speaking to The Irish Times yesterday, she said: “I’m really disgusted by the whole thing. It should have been a woman. I’m very disappointed by the signal it sends out. It sends out the wrong message that women aren’t valued as much as men.”

No entitlement

“I don’t have any sense of entitlement to anything and I’m not personally disappointed. I’m disheartened by the process for women,” she said.

She described Fine Gael’s choice of a male candidate to contest the upcoming Seanad byelection as “regressive”.

“It’s regressive in terms of choosing a male candidate to fill the vacancy with the huge gender imbalance we have in the Oireachtas generally,” she said.

Ms Long said she had spent years speaking up for marginalised women, citing as an example her focus on women who had spent time in Magdalene Laundries.

“It was all wrong, the way it was done. I’m disappointed because I was incredibly fond of Fine Gael people and still am.”

Reacting to her resignation, a Fine Gael spokesman said the party regretted Ms Long’s decision to leave the party and wished her well. “We had hoped she would have had a long career in politics with Fine Gael,” he said.

The spokesman said two out of three Fine Gael candidates in the forthcoming byelections for Dáil and Seanad seats are women.

“As the party that introduced ground-breaking legislation which will ensure that at least 30 per cent of any party’s candidates in future general elections are women, Fine Gael has gone further than any other party in attempting to increase female representation in national politics,” he said.

A second potential Seanad candidate put forward by Fine Gael’s national executive also criticised the decision to select a man to contest the byelection.

“I was really surprised it was a man,” said Councillor Kate O’Connell. “Personally, I think it sends out the wrong signal. I thought they would definitely appoint a woman after the reshuffle.”

Taoiseach Enda Kenny faced criticism in July when he appointed an all-male team of Ministers of State.

Going backwards

“So now we will have a net reduction in the number of women. That’s going backwards rather than forwards.”

A third female candidate, Stephanie Regan, insisted gender was not a factor. “I didn’t consider it anti-female in any way. Of course we would like to see a woman there but extracting the message that it’s anti-female is the wrong issue.”

Ms Regan said a lot of work was ongoing to promote women in Fine Gael, “and I’ve definitely experienced that”. Constituency considerations were probably taken into account in the selection of Mr McNulty, she said.