Still ‘too many barriers’ for women entering politics, says McEntee

Taoiseach says Government is ‘serious about further reducing the gender pay gap’

There are still “too many barriers” for women entering politics, the Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has said.

Ms McEntee said just 23 per cent of TDs are women while only four women hold full Cabinet positions.

Ms McEntee was speaking in the Dáil on Tuesday, where statements were heard to mark International Women’s Day.

“I know so many women who are interested and involved in politics but may not have the confidence to run for office, and crucially may not feel that the supports are there for them, be that childcare, working hours or female mentors,” she said.


“To support, protect and empower women in all walks of life and at all stages of life we need to do more.”

Ms McEntee also said extensive work on the new national strategy to combat domestic, sexual and gender-based violence was continuing ahead of it being brought to Government next month.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin acknowledged "the bravery of the women of Ukraine, the women of Afghanistan and all the women who are experiencing conflict at this time".

“Women face particular challenges and hardships in times of conflict and it is important that any response to conflict and the displacement of people specifically and particularly acknowledges the needs of women and children,” he said.

“I know that everyone in this House is thinking today of the women facing impossible choices as they try to protect their families from war.”

Gender pay gap

Mr Martin also said "unfortunately" the gender pay gap remains significant in Ireland and around the world but that the Government was "serious about further reducing the gender pay gap".

“It is indicative of the work still to be done to ensure that women have equal access to economic empowerment,” he said.

"The effects of the gender pay gap are lifelong, resulting in women experiencing poverty at higher levels later in life. According to the latest figures published by Eurostat, in 2018 the gender pay gap in Ireland was 11.3 per cent while the gender pay gap across the European Union overall was 14.1 per cent."

He said the Gender Pay Gap Information Act 2021, which introduced a legislative basis for gender pay gap reporting in Ireland and reporting by organisations with more than 250 employees, will begin this year.

“Regulations to give effect to this legislation are in preparation and will be published in the coming weeks along with guidance for employers,” Mr Martin added.

“Reporting requirements will then be rolled out over the next few years to organisations with more than 150 employees and then to organisations with more than 50 employees. These requirements will eventually encompass approximately two-thirds of employees in the State.”

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said the State could not continue to be “the blockage to progressive change” and the Government must “stand up in tangible and meaningful ways”.

“We know that the mindset that sought to subjugate women has not gone away. It lingers still in the halls of power in new forms and different expressions,” she said.

“The outworking of this circuitry of misogyny is the lived experience today of every girl and woman in the persistence of the gender pay gap and the feminisation of poverty.

“We see it also in how both the austerity era and the pandemic deepened gender inequality. We see it in the lack of ambition on the part of successive governments to tackle areas of public policy that have an acute and disproportionate impact on women.”

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times