Gender quotas and politics

Sir, – Dr Christine Cross, of the University of Limerick, writes that the recent local elections highlight a need for gender quotas at local level, but fails to support this contention with any analysis of the election results themselves ("Local election results underline case for gender quotas", Opinion & Analysis, June 3rd).

For example, Dr Cross makes the extraordinary claim that the main barrier to women being elected isn’t convincing the electorate to vote for them, but “being nominated in the first place by a political party”. This myth has been perpetuated by a number of political scientists and lobby groups for the last decade, but all recent elections have shown this is simply false. In fact, the very opposite is the case.

For example, of all the political parties, Fine Gael ran by far the most female candidates in the recent election, running 122 women.

This represented 29 per cent of their total number of candidates, fractionally below the 30 per cent envisaged by the gender quota legislation. Of these, 62 were elected and 60 were not, a success rate of 51 per cent compared to a 67 per cent success rate for their male candidates.


Can Dr Cross explain how political parties can be blamed for the decision of voters to give disproportionate support to male candidates at the ballot box?

She perpetuates the myth that female candidates are stymied and prevented from running by political parties at local level.

Again, this is not so, and it is useful to use the largest party, Fine Gael, as an example.

Of the 31 electoral areas across the four Dublin local authorities, just one woman who sought to become a Fine Gael candidate was unsuccessful at a selection convention, and this was in an area (Donaghmede) where the party ended up running two other female candidates. Incidentally, both were unsuccessful, whereas the third candidate – a male – was elected.

Activists in political parties at all levels will tell you that they are crying out for female candidates to express an interest in seeking elected office.

The notion that women are being routinely turned away will cause hoots of derision from cumann meetings in draughty rural halls all the way up to the corridors of Leinster House.

If women were being prevented from running for political parties, then this would surely result in a swell of female Independent candidates, and yet just 94 of the 500 of Independent candidates were women (18 per cent).

The single greatest barrier to increased female political representation is not the failure of political parties to nominate female candidates, but the inexplicable reluctance of voters – including female voters – to support them in equal proportion to male candidates.

This is quite a politically incorrect reality, and as a result it suits the media, academics, and State-funded lobby groups to try to gloss over it and to find other scapegoats for the problem.

But until such time as the reasons for this are addressed head-on, our overall level of female representation will continue to lag behind other western countries. – Yours, etc,



Harolds Cross,

Dublin 6W.

Sir, – Congratulations to Christine Cross for her detailed analysis of the under-representation of women in Irish politics.

The most telling figure in her article was the fact that women held a mere 6 per cent of Dáil seats in this so-called representative democracy since independence.

Another disappointing fact is that at the present time less than a quarter of the State’s councillors are women.

Christine Cross recommends the introduction of gender quotas for local elections as a solution.

The case for quotas is based on the fact that women, because they live longer, are a majority in the electorate.

Yet their interests, perpectives and talents have been and still are marginalised in our democratic institutions.

The introduction of quotas for local authority elections on its own does not seem to be an adequate solution.

In the last Dáil election, political parties had to have 30 per cent of their candidates as women. But the Dáil is still nearly 80 per cent male.

There is no solution to their under-representation but for women themselves to make their under-representation a political issue and vote for women candidates. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 13.