Government will facilitate McEntee’s maternity leave, says Martin

Minister for Justice intends to take time off but legislative change will be required

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has said she intends to take time to spend with her first child, due in May, the details of how this will work have yet to be determined. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has said she intends to take time to spend with her first child, due in May, the details of how this will work have yet to be determined. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

The Government is committed to facilitating Minister for Justice Helen McEntee taking maternity leave, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said.

Mr Martin said the leave would be facilitated “through a range of mechanisms” and believes the situation “will become a catalyst for wider change”.

He said there would likely need to be a legislative and constitutional change to facilitate members of the Oireachtas taking maternity leave more easily in the future.

While Ms McEntee has said she intends to take time to spend with her first child, due in May, the details of how this will work have yet to be determined.

“I do believe we can accommodate Helen and I do believe there are mechanisms through which we can facilitate Helen taking maternity leave . . . I will work with the other party leaders in respect of that and officials will be working on that in my department and within the Department of Justice to bring this about but I do believe this will become a catalyst for wider change,” Mr Martin said.

He was speaking in an interview with Women for Election for International Women’s Day on Monday.

The Taoiseach said he would like to see 50 per cent of the Dáil and Seanad made up of women politicians by 2030 “if possible”.

“That’s what we should be aiming for,” he said. “We need more women in politics.”

Mr Martin said the 30 per cent gender quota for party candidates at general elections had been “very effective” while the 40 per cent quota would be very challenging for political parties but that it “will force the pace a bit more”.

“We’ve had some very challenging battles internally in terms of selection competitions, where we’ve facilitated women getting selected but it wasn’t easy and even that process proved very challenging if I’m honest in respect of quite a number of women candidates,” he said.

Following on from US president Joe Biden establishing a gender policy council, Mr Martin said he would speak with him about its impact and the possibility of a similar body for Ireland.

Mr Martin also said social media was having a very destructive impact on politics and on decision making. He said the abuse that occurs on such platforms can be “very oppressive and particularly on women”.

Mr Martin said such abuse was a deterrent to people continuing to participate in politics and could be damaging electorally in terms of false narratives put out as well as psychologically.

He said he believed the Government would have to “get tougher” with social media companies, whose forums are used to facilitate such abuse.

“We’ve engaged with them [social media companies]. They constantly say that they’re employing more and more sophisticated mechanisms to try and root out hate speech and root out this abuse much more quickly but that’s not really happening to the degree that it should be,” he said.

When asked whether he could a similar event to the Capitol Hill storming in Washington replicated in Ireland, Mr Martin said “of course it could, it could easily happen anywhere at this stage”.

The Taoiseach said there had to be increased resources allocated to childcare and also to align it to “a more State-driven system”.

“My view is from the earliest years right through from zero to six, we need to be working towards a State model that can embrace the various providers at the moment but to do so in a comprehensive way to provide for women and indeed for children as well,” he said.

“There’s a huge gap between the pre-primary and post-primary in terms of resource allocation it seems to me.”