The Irish Sun Interview

I recently spoke with the Irish Sun about gender balance in the Dail and ending the sexist “pat on the head” politics of the past by moving towards a 50/50 gender balance. You can read more here or below.

GENDER BALANCE: Girl power on rise in Dail but top female TDs say there’s long way to before completely ditching ‘old boys club’

Ireland is not far away from its first ever female Taoiseach as the Dail tries to end the sexist “pat on the head” politics of the past and move towards a 50/50 gender balance, it has been claimed.

The Dail currently has more female TDs than ever before after the introduction of gender quota rules led to 35 women being elected in 2016 – making up 22 per cent of all TDs.

This number is expected to increase again in the next general election as last year’s abortion referendum encouraged more women to get involved in politics.

Despite the current spike in women signing up to take part in politics, three top female TDs told the Irish Sun that there is a long way to go before we completely ditch the “old boys club” Dail.

Sinn Fein’s Louise O’Reilly believes that parties place female politicians beside leaders in press conferences just to improve their optics and that women TDs can be dismissed when speaking in the Dail.

‘DISMISSIVE ATTITUDE’

She said: “There can be a bit of an atmosphere when women speak in the Dail and that isn’t present when men speak.

“There’s a kind of a murmur and a sort of dismissive attitude when women speak.

For example, you’ll never hear Varadkar or Michael Martin described as shrill or hysterical or shrieking but they do use that kind of terminology for women.”

She added: “You see some times when the party leaders come in they have a women sitting beside them and you wonder is that just for the optics?

“Is that just it would look bad otherwise on the 9 O’Clock news?

“Even when they go out to do press conferences they are flanked by women but the women don’t speak which I think it is a bit strange.”

‘SEXIST ‘PAT ON HEAD’ ATTITUDE’

The Dublin TD believes that while there are still barriers to prevent Irish women from entering politics, we are not far away from a first ever female Taoiseach.

Former Labour Party leader Joan Burton was first elected to the Dail in 1992 and claims that there was a sexist “pat on the head” attitude towards women in politics at the time.

While she believes that politics has moved on from the old boys club Dail, she feels that women are still passed over for major positions in Government and hit out at the Taoiseach’s decision not to put forward a female candidate for the EU Commission earlier this year.

She said: “I think when it comes to the offices of Government, there’s never been a woman Taoiseach, Minister for Foreign Affairs or Defence Minister.

“There’s never been a woman Finance Minister.

“There’s still a tradition in Government that women look after the social services and children so it’s education, children, health – there has been women in all of those and obviously social protection as well.

“There does need to be a mind change among all the political parties that women should be there as equals.

‘EQUALITY WORKS’

“I think the recent move by the new President of the Commission to ask countries to nominate potential male and female commissioners is a very good step.

“I know people like Phil Hogan might be a bit put out to have to maybe stand back for a woman but being honest, in terms of young girls and boys in school at the moment you need to be able to show them that equality works.

“We need to show them that you have equal presence of men and women in all roles and walks of life in Ireland.

“I just think that’s necessary and we just haven’t reached that stage yet in the Dail or with different political parties.”

50/50 GENDER BALANCE

Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy believes Ireland is just a couple of elections away from hitting a 50/50 gender balance in the Dail as her party continues to see more and more women putting themselves forward for election in recent years.

She said: “I think we’re probably a couple of elections off getting to 50/50 yet but I think there will be a point where it becomes easier to do but we’re not there yet.

“I think the two referendums have been helpful in that respect. We do also need to have a greater degree of diversity and we do need to have new Irish coming forward and being elected.

“We do need to have that experience in the Dail to make it a genuine parliament that reflects the people.

“In the Social Democrats, we most certainly have seen more women coming forward and wanting to run.

“We had more men than women running on our ticket in the local elections and we have 19 councillors now but 10 are women and nine are men.

“We have that almost 50 50 balance and we achieved that by people coming through form the two referenda who put their toe in the water during the referenda and hadn’t been involved in politics before.”