Maternity Leave for Women Parliamentarians: Issues and Proposals

article-1314283-0B4D596E000005DC-686_634x373By Claire McGing, NUI Maynooth

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.

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The Start of Something New? Fianna Fáil’s Gender Equality Action Plan 2013-2018

By Claire McGing, Lecturer in Political Geography & Irish Research Council Scholar, NUI Maynooth


This week (July 30th), Fianna Fáil published the party’s new Gender Equality Action Plan 2013-2018. In a foreword by the party leader, Micheal Martin TD, it is noted that the under-representation of women in Irish politics “is a systematic problem, which requires radical action or nothing will change. It can only be tackled through a willingness to overturn long-established practices”.

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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 ( or 021 – 4903237).

Conference announcement: Zipping, twinning or all women shortlists? Electoral systems and the representation of women

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: 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
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.

ReformCard: a tool to help voters decide

The editors and contributors behind have teamed with a large volunteer team of project managers, web designers and others to produce ReformCard a measurement tool to rank each party based on the quality of their policies on political reform.  We hope this will prove a critical instrument in informing the election 2011 debate. It provides the 25 proposals for political reform in Ireland which we believe provide the best possible combination to transform the political system and ensure it is fit for purpose in the 21st century. Continue reading

The 50:50 Group manifesto for gender parity in Irish politics

Posted by David Farrell on behalf of the 50:50 Group (January 31, 2011)


Dear Deputy,

The 50:50 Group is a single issue national advocacy group that has come together to campaign for equal political representation in Irish Politics. Our desire for change reflects the public mood to move to a more inclusive form of politics. We are encouraged by your party’s publicly stated intention to reform and renew political structures and to put in place a new type of politics. Continue reading

Gender quota debate rumbles on – but are the two sides talking past each other? (Updated 18th August)

Sarah Carey’s article in today’s Irish Times is the latest contribution in the debate on  whether we should consider adopting party-level gender quotas for the nomination of candidates. This article appears to me to be a particularly striking example of the combative rhetorical strategies that both sides of the debate have employed. Several opinion pieces on this topic have followed the structure: I am for/against gender quotas – now let me tell you why they are wonderful/terrible.

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