Permanent arrangements for the provision of maternity leave for women in politics, from Councillors to Cabinet members, are needed within the next six months, a Fine Gael TD has said.
Cabinet needs to expedite a suite of constitutional and legislative solutions to enable gender equality in our democratic institutions, according to Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, Fine Gael Spokesperson for Equality.
Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon, Deputy Carroll MacNeill said: “It’s a fantastic day today with the news that Minister McEntee has had a baby boy, and I want to wish huge congratulations to Helen and Paul. It is powerful proof that young women watching can have high office and still be supported in having a baby.
“The arrangements for Minister McEntee’s leave were important, but as she said, they were a temporary sticking plaster rather than a full resolution of the matter.
“I hope today can be a springboard moment and that the Government will now commit to a plan to introducing necessary permanent arrangements to support women in politics from ‘Councillor to Cabinet’, and to put some real ambition around it. It would be ideal to see this completed before Minister McEntee returns from her maternity leave, as we need to see momentum on this issue now.
“The necessary elements are coming together – I published a Bill on Remote Parliamentary Voting last December[i] to enable the Houses of the Oireachtas make rules to enable appropriate maternity and paternity leave for TDs and Senators.
“That Bill was subsequently adopted by the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus and it was recently advanced by the Caucus in a meeting with the Taoiseach.”
Deputy Carroll MacNeill also acknowledged the work already being done in this area: “Minister Peter Burke is leading a cross-party group on maternity leave for Councillors which is badly needed. In my own Council in Dún Laoghaire, the first to achieve 50:50 gender representation, both Councillors Lorraine Hall and Eva Dowling have had babies during this term with each having to come up with ad hoc arrangements, including pairing with other Councillors to manage the needs of their role and the needs of their baby.
“Just last weekend, the Citizen’s Assembly on Gender Equality made 45 recommendations[ii] which included the introduction of maternity leave for elected representatives.
“In the case of Minister McEntee we were able to expedite a sticking plaster solution; we now need the same commitment to bringing together the suite of measures needed to be referendum ready when that becomes possible.
“You can’t be it if you can’t see it; we know we have a problem with the under representation of women in politics. Maternity provision in democratic institutions alone is not the solution, but anyone with a womb can see it’s a big glaring part of it.” concluded Deputy Carroll MacNeill.