Varadkar and Trudeau discuss how to increase women in politics

Two leaders met at Farmleigh House where they spoke about Brexit and free trade deal

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau discuss how to increase female participation in politics during a meeting at Farmleigh House in the Phoenix Park.

 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau have discussed how to increase female participation in politics.

The pair discussed the issue during a meeting at Farmleigh House in the Phoenix Park on Tuesday.

Mr Varadkar was recently criticised for the gender balance of his Ministerial appointments. Mr Varadkar said he considers himself a feminist but acknowledged that others may have different views of him.

They also discussed issues such as CETA, the free trade deal between Canada and the EU, and multilateralism.

Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada is presented with an Ireland rugby jersey and socks from An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Farmleigh House, Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times
Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada is presented with an Ireland rugby jersey and socks from An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Farmleigh House, Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

Mr Trudeau has 50-50 male-female split in his Cabinet and has described himself as a feminist.

On the issue of Brexit, Mr Varadkar said the UK should not be allowed strike free trade deals with countries such as Canada even during any transitional phase of withdrawal from the EU.

The deadline for the completion of Brexit talks is March 2019 and senior EU and UK figures have raised the prospect of a transitional deal for a number of years after that date.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar presents a pair of socks and a sports jersey to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during their joint press conference in Dublin. Photograph: Aidan Crawley/EPA
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar presents a pair of socks and a sports jersey to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during their joint press conference in Dublin. Photograph: Aidan Crawley/EPA

Mr Varadkar said, however, that the same rules should apply during that period as apply during full EU membership, which means the UK could not strike its own trade deals with non EU countries.

The Taoiseach said he sought advice from Mr Trudeau on gender equality in politics.

“We actually did discuss this and I did seek some advice from Justin on this because I am very impressed with the fact that he has a Cabinet that is gender balanced, that is 50 per cent male and 50 per cent female,” Mr Varadkar said.

“And I am always of the view that diversity leads to better decision making. Diversity is about more than just gender but it leads to better decision making if we are trying to have a government and a parliament that looks like the country it represents.”

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is presented with a Bodhran with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Farmleigh House, Dublin, July 4th, 2017. Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is presented with a Bodhran with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Farmleigh House, Dublin, July 4th, 2017. Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

Mr Varadkar said he spoke to Mr Trudeau about his efforts to increase the number of female members of parliament in Canada “over three or four years”.

“That’s something that I want to do over the next couple of year,” he said, adding that is goal after the next election is to have 20 female TDs and a 50-50 split in the longer term.”

When asked if he considered himself a feminist, Mr Varadkar replied: “I think other people have to judge that of you. Certainly, if feminism is defined as supporting equal opportunity between men and women, which I do, then I consider myself a feminist.”

“But I totally accept that other people would have a different definition of that and would therefore not agree.”

Mr Trudeau said he “shared with him the challenges that I faced in promoting and recruiting strong women to run for politics”.

Prime minister Justin Trudeau plays with a hurley during his meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photograph: Aidan Crawley/EPA
Prime minister Justin Trudeau plays with a hurley during his meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photograph: Aidan Crawley/EPA

“For some reason it is more difficult to get women to run for politics than is to get women to run for politics. If you ask a woman to step forward and run, her first question often is: ‘Really, do you think I should, do you think I can, do you think I am qualified enough?’

“If you ask a man to run for politics, his first question is: ‘Well, what took you so long to ask me?’ So it does take a deliberate effort to reach out and recruit great women candidates. “

Mr Trudeau said it “took a number of years” to increase female representation in his Liberal Party.

“I certainly encouraged Leo to do that and he agreed that is something we need to be taking seriously.”

Canadian patterned socks worn by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar during a visit by the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Photogrqaph: Kenneth O’Halloran/PA Wire
Canadian patterned socks worn by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar during a visit by the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Photogrqaph: Kenneth O’Halloran/PA Wire

He said increasing the number of women in leadership roles is not just something “they need” but also what “we need”.

“Getting more women into positions of power and authority and success is not just the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do and that’s something we both agree with.”

On the issue of Brexit, Mr Varadkar ruled out Britain striking trade deals with countries such as Canada until it had cut all ties to the EU.

“For so long as the United Kingdom is a member of the European Union, they are not at liberty to conclude trade agreements with other countries,” the Taoiseach said.

“Certainly, I can’t see a scenario where Britain would remain a member of the EU, even in a transitional period and then negotiate, other trade deals on their own.”