ARE GENDER QUOTAS ADDING UP?

After the election of Sinn Féin’s Denise Mitchell in Dublin Bay North, the number of female TDs has risen to 33.

One of the big talking points for General Election 2016 was gender quotas. The number of female candidates running for the Dáil almost doubled from the 2011 election.

Although there were 163 female candidates running this year, just 33 of them have been elected so far. 16 of the 40 constituencies elected only male TDs this time.

The gender quotas don’t appear to be having the huge impact on the number of female TDs as was initially expected.

Women for Election is a non-profit organisation that was set up to create more gender balance in Irish politics and they were successful in this to a certain degree. To go from 86 female candidates in 2011 to 163 this time is a great achievement.

“The number of female candidates has doubled this time around and I would argue that gender quotas have stimulated this significantly,” Michelle O’Donnell Keating, co-founder of Women for Election said.

But the results indicate that the Irish electorate don’t care too much about the gender of their TDs. Of the five constituencies in Cork, only one woman was elected.

In a poll of DCU students, 81 per cent of those who took part said that candidate gender did not influence their vote in the election.

Three of the parties running for election had female leaders: Joan Burton and Roisin Shortall who were both elected, and Lucinda Creighton who lost her seat.

Gender quotas were brought in under the Fine Gael/Labour government and the aim was to break down systematic issues around the selection of candidates and force parties to consider both men and women in their candidate selection procedures.

“There wasn’t a lack of women in political parties,” Michelle said, “but they just weren’t being selected for prominent positions.”

Prior to this election, only 95 women were elected to the Dáil in this history of the state. Fine Gael’s Maria Bailey was the 100th woman to take a seat at Leinster House when she was elected at the weekend.

By Aoibheann Diver

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