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Political parties must go beyond quotas in helping women contest elections – Doherty

1st March 2021 - Regina Doherty

Political parties must go beyond reaching quotas and support women in overcoming obstacles they may face in contesting elections, a Fine Gael Senator has said. Regina Doherty, Leader of Seanad Éireann, was speaking as a report published today found that critical barriers still inhibit women’s chances of election success.

‘More Women – Changing the Face of Politics’, a report from Women for Election, finds that women are currently absent from 40% of critical government decision making tables, including health and the Covid-19 national response.

Senator Doherty said, “There is an old adage ‘You can’t be what you can’t see’ and the message from women who have contested national and European elections in Ireland is to encourage other women to get involved in politics, which is hugely positive.

“However, this report finds that barriers include the lack of access to maternity leave for elected officials at all levels, a lack of access to campaign financing to recognise care responsibilities and the risk of sexist, racist and misogynistic on-line abuse.

“Worryingly the report, based on interviews with women who contested local, European and general elections over 2019 and 2020, found that it is especially difficult for women to do well where there is a male incumbent in a ‘winnable seat’. Selecting women to run for these winnable seats and selecting them in a timely manner is very important.

“My own party has been determined to advance the equality agenda, to promote women’s rights and to encourage more women into politics. In the last General Election, just over 30 per cent of Fine Gael’s candidates were women and in Government, we introduced financial incentives to encourage parties to run more female candidates at local elections.

“We also introduced gender quotas to ensure at least 30% female candidates at general elections, rising to 40% in 2023.

“However of course we can and must do better, and I would back calls for quotas for Dáil Éireann (40% for 2024), to be applied to local and Seanad elections through legislation. Fine Gael is committed to running more female candidates at the next local elections, building towards 40% at the next General Election.

“This Government is also committed to introducing practical measures that will encourage more women to stand in local elections in 2024, which will likely increase the number of women elected to the Oireachtas in the future.

“We will also act on the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly on Gender Equality, seeking to ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in the workplace, politics, and public life,” Senator Doherty concluded.

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