A Woman’s Place Is In The House, Leinster House
The history of Irish politics has always been dominated by men, with very few women being able to break through the boundaries of such a male-dominated profession.
In the 2011 General Election only 86 of the 566 candidates running were women which made up 15%. Women won 25 of the 166 Dáil seats (15%), with this increasing to 27 (16%) following the 2014 by-elections.
There are 163 women running in tomorrow’s General Election, and this is out 551 candidates contesting the election in total and this is the best representation women have ever had in Dáil Éireann, but it is an increase of only 5% in the last 35 years which still proves that male candidates still to this day, receive the majority of votes in Ireland.
Since the foundation of the State in 1918, just 95 women have been elected in the Republic of Ireland; our Dáil has never been less than 84% male.
The first female politician in Ireland was that of Constance Markievicz, an Irish Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil politician, revolutionary nationalist, suffragette and socialist. In December 1918, she was the first woman elected to the British House of Commons, though she did not take her seat and, along with the other Sinn Féin TDs, formed the first Dáil Éireann.
Constance Markievicz was also one of the first women in the world to hold a cabinet position and it is female figures such as Constance who have inspired other Irish leaders such as Mary Robinson, Mary McAleese and Joan Burton to follow in her footsteps, to not back down, to uphold powerful policies, and to know that just because you are a woman, doesn’t mean that you can’t do a job that is stereotypically in the male domain.
This year’s General Election is a historical one and the impact of the gender quota for selection was both striking and contentious.
The difference between this and the last general election in terms of gender balance is quite remarkable. In 2011 86 female candidates made up 15% of the overall candidates. In 2016 163 women on the ticket make up 30% of candidates. And furthermore, in fact, half of the 40 constituencies have over 30% of women on the ticket.
According to Women For Election – a non-political organisation that works solely on identifying and supporting women committed to public life – 85% of female candidates are from Fine Gael, Labour, Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein and hold office at local or national level or have run before.
Overall there is an increase in the amount of women who are pursuing a career in politics and if more women are to run, that means their policies and morals may differ from their male counterparts – such as the issue on abortion – and the people of Ireland might be able to understand the issue from a woman’s point of view.
The challenge now is to get women elected and the only way to create real change is for the voters to vote for women and give women high preferences.
According to Women For Election – research classifies the reasons for women’s underrepresentation as the 5 c’s.
- Confidence: women are less likely to go forward for selection
- Cash: women have less access to financial resources than men
- Candidate selection: how political parties select candidates is often hard to navigate for outsiders
- Culture: political culture tends to be dominated by men including within political parties
- Childcare: women are more likely to have this primary responsibility
When we look at Irish women in politics such as Mary Robinson and her humanitarian efforts and everything that she has done for our country, it is difficult to see why more capable Irish women have not put themselves forward to represent their constituency and country.
The potential to change the face of the Dáil is unprecedented, it is up to voters to decide if they want to create that change.