Posted by David Farrell on behalf of the 50:50 Group (January 31, 2011)
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.
The Irish population is divided fairly equally between men and women. But our national legislature, Dáil Eireann doesn’t represent this societal split and it never has. The 30th Dáil is 86% male. This imbalance of representation places Ireland 23rd out of the EU 27 Members States for female representation in parliament. Only Cyprus, Romania, Hungary and Malta are below us in this league table.
At a time of our country’s greatest need, we are asking you to stop the exclusion of half of our population from political representation. Research reveals that it is the lack of women candidates not lack of voter support that has the greatest impact on the proportions of women politicians .
We believe that without affirmative action that the number of women in the Dáil will stay low and our democracy will remain incomplete . Ireland also has international obligations to adopt positive action measures to achieve better representation levels.
As you prepare your manifesto for the upcoming general election, we, the 50:50 Group, want you to improve voter choice. We are asking that you commit to introducing legislation to oblige political parties to implement candidate selection quotas.
In the 2007 general election, women constituted less than 20% of candidates overall. For election 2011, the picture is no better. Currently, only 17% of the candidates chosen to contest the upcoming election are women. The case of Cork illustrates how urgent the issue is: of the 19 seats in Cork County only 5 women have been selected to run.
Limiting voter choice in this way is not just a women’s issue it’s a societal issue.
At the end of 2009, the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women’s Rights chaired by Deputy Brendan Kenneally, recognised this and issued a unanimous report on the issue of female participation in Politics. In that report the committee noted the significant advancement that other countries had made with the use of special temporary measures or candidate selection quotas.
We want legislation to make it illegal for political parties in receipt of state funding to field any more than two thirds of candidates of one gender in any given election at national, local and European level.
There is strong public support for taking action. There is plenty of evidence that voters both men and women will vote for women. The Irish National Election Study of 2007 revealed that two-thirds of voters supported having more women in politics.
Our current under-representation of women in politics is an affront to the democratic ideals of justice and equality. And it must stop. Now is the time to turn promises and pledges into a commitment to act.
Will you give the electorate the choice to vote for a female candidate?
I look forward to your reply and women all over Ireland are awaiting your response.
The 50:50 Group
The 50:50 Group
The 50:50 Group is a single issue national advocacy group that has come together to campaign for equal political representation in Irish Politics. The 50:50 Group is a fully inclusive organisation and politically non-aligned. We welcome both men and women and have local branches now organising in Cork, Dublin, Galway, Limerick, Longford, Thurles, Tralee and Waterford. Our desire for change reflects a public mood for change. We believe that it is a democratic right of every citizen to play their part particularly at this time of our country’s greatest need.
Our Vision of Change
Gender parity in the Oireachtas by the year 2020. Quite simply, we want 50:50 by 2020.