Rising through the ranks? Women as Irish party members and GE11 candidates

By Claire McGing (John and Pat Hume scholar and Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences scholar (IRCHSS), NUI Maynooth)

Studies of political recruitment in liberal democracies show the importance of active party membership as a formal and/or informal requirement in enhancing the chances of an aspirant being successful in the selection process. In systems of decentralised candidate selection (such as in Ireland), longtime party members can develop a strong network of fellow party activists who will in turn vote for them at the convention stage and mobilise other members to do the same. A long history of party activism can also be a considerable advantage when the selection procedure is instead at the hands of the party elite. Continue reading

Women in Irish politics: why so few and are quotas the answer?

By Claire McGing (John and Pat Hume scholar and Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences scholar (IRCHSS), NUI Maynooth)

Electoral politics inIrelandis a highly masculine realm. In total, only 91 women deputies have been elected since the foundation of the State (Buckley and McGing, forthcoming). The country currently has one of the worst gender balances in its parliament in the democratic world. Following the 2011 general election, women hold 25 seats out of 166 in the 31st Dáil, representing a figure of just 15.1%. Although low, this is a record high for the number of women elected in a general election inIreland. Progress in the lower house has been extremely slow to transpire in recent years. Significant progress was made between 1977 and 1992 where the percentage of female TDs increased from 4.1 to 12%. However, progress since then has remained generally static, with only five more women TDs elected in 2011 than had been in 1992.

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Parallels between the elections of 1932/33 and 2011

By Mel Farrell (Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences (IRCHSS) scholar, Department of History, NUI Maynooth

Election 2011 carries the potential to realign Irish politics. As such, this electoral contest promises to take its place among the critical elections of Irish history in 1918, 1922 and 1932. Going on the opinion polls, Fianna Fáil, the dominant force of Irish politics since 1932, entered the campaign fighting for its political survival.

Having stabilised in the first week of electioneering at around 16-18% in most polls, it seems as though Fianna Fáil will have a critical mass of deputies in the next Dáil. In that regard, this election seems set to more closely resemble that of 1932 than that which saw Sinn Féin sweep the boards in 1918, obliterating the Irish parliamentary party in the process. In 1932, the outgoing government wasn’t subjected to an electoral meltdown, but arguably never recovered from the defeat. No doubt glad to avoid the fate of the Home Rule party in 1918, should Fianna Fáil today take solace in that which awaited their arch rivals in Cumann na nGaedheal in 1932?

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Towards the 2011 general election: Where are all the women candidates?

By Claire McGing (on behalf of the PSAI Gender and Politics specialist group)

The recent failure of the talented Labour Dublin City councillor Rebecca Moynihan to win a nomination to run in Dublin South-Central in the upcoming general election (the three candidates who were selected are all male councillors) has once again raised questions about the lack of female candidates in Irish elections. Women have always been a minority in Irish electoral contests and subsequent sites of political representation. That is not to say that there are not other demographic deficits in politics – there is also a distinct lack of candidates and politicians from groups such as the youth, the working class, the disabled, etc. However, women make up 51% of the Irish population and cross-cut all other groups, yet not even a third of candidates for any of the parties in the last general election were female. Continue reading