Male politicians adopt NIMBY approach to gender quotas

Analysis: Many agree with getting more women into politics, just not at their expense

Renua’s  Lucinda Creighton at Leinster House. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Renua’s Lucinda Creighton at Leinster House. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

A NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) approach to gender quotas has been adopted by some male politicians who are concerned about their own futures as the deadline for finalising general election tickets looms.

Many of them say they agree wholeheartedly with the idea of getting more women into politics, but they do not seem to want it to happen in their own constituencies and at their own expense.

“Everybody’s in favour of it, but maybe in the constituency next door,” was one party strategist’s wry assessment of a tricky situation.

Sympathy may be growing at local level for the men refusing to go down without a fight.

These men have toiled in the political field for many years, often at great expense to their family life.

Naturally, parties are in the business of securing seats and the nightmare scenario for headquarters is that a female candidate does not receive the backing of a disgruntled local organisation that is essential for a successful campaign.

The issue of quotas is not a significant one for parties like Labour and Sinn Féin.

Both parties have a good track record in putting forward women candidates and have been well ahead of the 30 per cent mark for some time.

However, for Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, the introduction of this cultural change has been a painful and sometimes embarrassing process.

The architect of this political experiment was an unlikely feminist icon, former Fine Gael minister for the environment Phil Hogan, who unveiled the controversial law early in this Government’s term.

It is undoubtedly a crude mechanism, but Mr Hogan’s argument was that softer methods to increase female participation in politics had been tried for years and had failed every time.

The blunt force of his “hit them where it hurts” measure means parties that do not deliver enough female candidates face having precious funds cut in half.

For Fianna Fáil, which currently has an all-male Dáil team, failing to meet the candidate quota would cost the party a hefty €1-€1.5 million a year.

The loss for the larger Fine Gael party would be greater, as State funding is based on representation.

Longford row

The focus has been on Fianna Fáil of late because of the row at a Longford convention.

At the convention, Connie Gerety Quinn, manager of the Longford Citizens Information Service, was selected - some claim “imposed” - as the party’s candidate at the direction of party headquarters.

However, her candidacy meant Fianna Fáil, with two conventions yet to hold, edged over the 30 per cent target.

The party has selected 63 candidates, 19 of whom are women, with conventions outstanding in Cavan-Monaghan and Roscommon-Galway.

Fine Gael, having completed all conventions with their fair share of unhappiness about quotas, is now in the process of adding women candidates.

However, questions remain about whether this addition of paper candidates really is in the spirit of the quota legislation.

With many TDs having served as councillors before reaching Leinster House, the place to begin the quota would have been at the local elections.

One politician in favour of quotas but critical of how they are being implemented, said: “Now they’re trying to throw women into the deep end. Some of the women being added have no hope of getting elected.”

Renua

Renua, led by Lucinda Creighton, still has work to do to reach the quota.

“Our full intention is to make it and we would want to make it irrespective of any legislation,” a spokesman said.

The Social Democrats, with a current tally of six women and eight men, is ahead of the quota.

Shane Ross’s Independent Alliance is exempt from the quota requirement as it is not a party.

Women who enter the next Dáil as first-time TDs under this new system can hardly be regarded as trail-blazing suffragettes.

However, they will surely be made to suffer if the perception is allowed to take hold that they owe their seats entirely to a quota.

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