Looming large on the Irish political horizon is the next General Election, health falling at the latest in April 2016. This General Election brings with it a new rule for the nation’s political parties: they must ensure that 30% of their candidates are female or lose half of their state funding.
Fianna Fáil faces the greatest challenge in meeting this new obligation. The party have scant female representation across the political board. Of the 27 women currently sitting in the Dáil not one belongs to Fianna Fáil, here whilst the party has a mere two female representatives in the Seanad. Furthermore the party only managed to have 17% of its candidates be female for the last Local Elections.
The party recognised that action must be taken to remedy its dearth of female politicians and produced their Gender Equality Action Plan 2013-2018 outlining ten headline recommendations. However the party have failed to come up to scratch on their own aspirations as their aim to see 33% of their local candidates for the 2014 elections be female clearly fell spectacularly short. Some recommendations in the plan have been carried through, such as the appointment of a Gender Equality Officer (a move that has been vastly beneficial for Labour’s strives in the area) and in providing training for prospective female candidates.
However the plan has come under fire from within as Senator Averil Power lamented the failure to establish the proposed Women’s Conference and Women’s Network, both of which were hoped to find, encourage and support future female candidates. In a statement Senator Power noted that it was not to be wondered that the Party should have such low local female representation at council elections when such measures were being reneged upon.
The low percentage of female councillors is extremely worrying to the party as this should be the pool from which they pull contenders for the Dáil. Between now and the General Election they will have to pull female candidates from relative obscurity in order to meet the quota and given the recommendations of the party’s Markievicz commission that 20-27 of its candidates be female this is no easy task.
All is not lost for the party however as over a third of its card-carrying members are female and the female vote has always been a strong factor for them. Perhaps with enough drive in the coming year this fact can be utilised to achieve the quota.
By Una Power