Preparing for March election
Madam, – There is a serious threat to Irish democracy as a result of the small number of female candidates being put forward by their parties. For example, Labour councillor Rebecca Moynihan failed to secure a nomination to run in Dublin South Central where three male candidates were selected.
Ireland holds 84th place in the world classification of women’s representation. We are among the worst countries in the world for women’s participation in public life. A Joint Oireachtas Committee report on women in politics launched in November 2008 cited candidate selection as an inhibitor of representation in parliament. In the 2007 election, women comprised merely 17 per cent of all candidates. The candidate lists from the 2007 election show 60 per cent of the constituencies being dominated by male candidates. Fianna Fáil fielded no female candidates in 28 constituencies and Fine Gael did not put forward female candidates in 30 constituencies. These unfair candidate lists have resulted in a situation where 47 per cent of the female electorate suffer from gender disenfranchisement as they do not have a female TD to represent their constituency.
Vocal commitment to the idea of greater female representation is entirely hollow unless it is accompanied by a parallel commitment to affirmative action. Affirmative action comes in the form of gender quotas. The successful implementation of party and legislative quotas in countries such as Rwanda, Spain, Sweden, Belgium, Costa Rica and South Africa demonstrates that quotas are effective in increasing female participation in politics.
The more distant substantial change appears, the more attractive symbolic advances become. If Irish political parties were all willing to adopt a quota system it would help Ireland construct an image of a country that is genuinely dedicated to progress. Unless effective affirmative action such as gender quotas are adopted through legislation, women will continue to be inadequately represented in politics. – Yours, etc,