Parliaments, of which the Dáil and Seanad are no exception, are highly gendered institutions. Since the rules were written by men at a time in which women were not expected to participate in politics, the very norms, rules and culture of parliament conform to a male lifestyle. This is why the idea of maternity leave in politics is a problematic, at times controversial, one – lengthy periods away from office for child-bearing don’t ‘fit’ with institutional notions of representative democracy as politicians weren’t really meant to get pregnant in the first place. But, if the will is there, parliaments can be reconceptualised and reformed to catch up with the gendered realities of modern society.
The Irish Constitutional Convention has almost completed its work. At its most recent meeting it dealt with the last of the eight topics assigned to it by the Government. All that remains is for the Convention to use its remaining time to consider ‘Any other Amendments’ — the focus of its final meetings early in the New Year.
On its establishment, the Convention was roundly criticised, with much of the criticism focused on the limited (and admitedly pretty eclectic) range of topics that it was given to consider. Over the course of its deliberations minds have changed and many who were critical of it are less so today (see here for an example).
Declaration of interest: I am one of the members of the academic team advising the constitutional convention on its work programme.
The Irish Constitutional Convention is most of the way through its work programme. Many journalists and other commentators were critical of the Convention when it was launched. But among those who have witnessed its proceedings the sense is that it has been a success (see, for instance, Harry McGee’s piece). The Convention’s first report (on voting age and the presidential term of office) was discussed in the Dáil in July, just before the summer recess (see the ministerial statement here) where the government committed to holding referendums on three of the four recommendations made by the Convention and for the fourth item (on giving citizens a say in the nomination of presidential candidates) to be referred to the Environment committee for further consideration — overall, then, a pretty positive reaction by government (so far). Continue reading
So I recently learned that The Electoral (Amendment) (Political Funding) Bill 2011 will soon be passed as law. Looks like some really progressive stuff, especially when you look at the ongoing hyper monetization of politics that is taking place in the usa. I can’t wait to see the parties publish comprehensive accounts, which should let the media, academia, and general public keep a closer eye on how we fund our politics.
posted by David Farrell, June 5 2012
The introduction of gender quotas and its implications for candidate selection and women’s political representation in Ireland will be the focus of a seminar taking place at University College Cork this month. UCC’s Departments of Government and Women’s Studies will present a morning seminar “WOMEN IN POLITICS: FROM QUOTAS TO REPRESENTATION” on Friday, June 15th 2012.
Legislation on political party funding and candidate gender quotas is currently being debated in Dáil Éireann. The Electoral (Amendment) (Political Funding) Bill 2011 provides for a 30% gender quota for party candidates at the next election, rising to 40% seven years thereafter. Non-compliant parties will risk financial penalties.
Currently, there are only 25 women in Dáil Éireann accounting for 15 per cent of all seats. The numbers for Seanad Éireann are marginally better where 18 of the 60 senators (30 per cent of the seats) are women.
The seminar will hear from a number of researchers and practitioners in the fields of women’s studies and gender politics. Speakers include Minister Kathleen Lynch, Prof. Sarah Childs (Bristol University), Orla O’Connor (National Women’s Council of Ireland) and Fiona Buckley (University College Cork). The seminar will review the current ‘gender quota’ bill and examine how gender quotas can be integrated into candidate selection measures. The seminar will also discuss the link between women’s descriptive and substantive representation, and the impact of women’s (under) representation on policymaking.
The seminar takes place in Room 212 of the O’Rahilly Building, UCC and will run from 9.30am to 12.30pm. While attendance at the seminar is free of charge, attendees are asked to pre-register to ensure availability of seating.
To register and for further information, please contact Fiona Buckley (firstname.lastname@example.org or 021 – 4903237).
Posted by David Farrell (March 19, 2012)
Next Workshop on Political Representation Issues
Interested colleagues, including research fellows and students, are warmly invited to attend the first of the McDougall Trust’s 2012 series of lunchtime workshops on political representation issues. Light refreshments (coffee, tea, biscuits, pastries, fruit juice) will be available from 12.45 pm and after the workshop. Please aim to arrive by 12.50 pm.
Tuesday 27 March 2012, 1.00-2.30 pm (with a short break at 1.55 pm):
Zipping, twinning or all women shortlists? Electoral systems and the representation of women
Speakers: Professor Sarah Childs of Bristol University and Dr Rosie Campbell, Birkbeck College, University of London
Chair: Michael Steed, McDougall Trust
Venue: City Temple Conference Centre, Holborn Viaduct, London EC1A 2DE (please note new venue)
Sarah Childs and Rosie Campbell discuss the role that electoral systems play in improving the representation of women in legislatures.
Please register your interest in attending by noon on Monday, 26 March 2012.
Contact point: the Trust’s Executive Secretary, Paul Wilder (telephone: 020 7620 1080, e-mail: email@example.com or post: 6, Chancel Street, London SE1 0UX). Registrants will be sent an email confirming the workshop details. Do check the website for details of future workshops http://www.mcdougall.org.uk/workshops.html
Directions to the City Temple Conference Centre: The nearest underground stations are Chancery Lane (Central line) and Farringdon (Hammersmith & City, Metropolitan Circle lines). City Thameslink mainline station is close by. The area is served by bus routes 8, 17, 25, 45, 46, 63, 242, 341, 521 and 710.
Posted by David Farrell (January 20, 2012)
In a spirited opinion piece in today’s Irish Times, Daniel Sullivan takes issue with gender quotas (see here), describing the idea variously as wrong, unworkable and even ‘boneheaded’. He appears to have three main problems with the proposal. Continue reading