Financial penalties for failure to nominate women – the answer?

By Jane Suiter

The Irish Times reports today that parties will be financially penalised if they fail to nominate sufficient women.

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12 thoughts on “Financial penalties for failure to nominate women – the answer?

  1. This is a great website and I love that it is a forum for discussion on politics in Ireland. But no women in the pic that you use as your website banner. Nice one, lads.

  2. This is very good news. I honestly didn’t think anything like this would happen, so it’s a very pleasant surprise, and I just hope it’ll work. A few thoughts:

    1. Considering that the 50:50 Group have called for a one-third quota for each party, it’s interesting that the proposed legislation will only require a 30% quota. I suppose (I hope) 30% will be enough to bring about an even balance between the sexes/genders, but it makes me wonder how people arrive at any of these figures anyway.

    2. Why only half their funding? Maybe half will be enough, but why stop there? Why not cut all funding?

    3. I wonder about how this will affect the relationship between the parties’ grassroots and their leaders. I’m not really concerned about candidates who might get deselected or the whingeing about “tokenism” and “discrimination against men” – that will have to be put up with for a while. But I can see the potential for candidate quotas to undermine the power of ordinary party members, as they’d give the party bosses (for want of a better word) an excuse to interfere further in the selection process. This legislation should therefore ideally give guidelines about how parties should go about implementing the quota requirements. One might say that all this is a matter for the parties to resolve themselves, but that’s basically the same argument as one that’s used against gender quotas. I’d like to think this legislation will open up the possibility of further regulation of political parties to link funding to internal democracy and fairness. I don’t think there’s any reason to stop at the gender issue in this regard.

    Despite these concerns, I’m very happy about this development.

  3. Although not entirely versed on the merits and demerits of this legislation it seems like a positive step.

    However, I think much of the focus has been on how to legislate changes. If memory serves, per-candidate women were still less successful than men. Perhaps there is also some room for educating (?) voters abour the merits of electing a woman rather than forcing the issue through.

    Similarly, the merits of educating voters about the importance of electing a candidate for the sake of the country, rather than local interests (?).

    Although this may also be problematic, perhaps ‘ethical voting’ might be an issue worth exploring.

  4. @ Alsun – the picture of the members of the first Dáil – you can pick out plenty of worthy people: Desmond FitzGerald, Arthur Griffith, WT Cosgrave, Michael Collins, Eamon De Valera, Kevin O’Higgins, Eoin MacNeill, Sean MacEntee, Count Plunkett and Harry Boland to name a few. I’m not sure who else is in the picture and the whinging Countess was off being a self serving martyr no doubt.

    There is nothing to indicate the Irish public service is capable of proper transformative reform left to its own devices so such reforms have to forced on it and the sky won’t fall in if the level was 50% across the board from board rooms to every quango in the land, the legal profession and even sport but starting with politics might focus the mind of the Sir Humpries that change is coming.

  5. Another cunning and crafty move, presumably from the combined FG/Lab High Command. A combination of a bit of distraction and diversion (to take people’s minds off the key political reform issues), some displacement activity (to keep gloriously underemployed backbench TDs occupied) and a blatant attempt to nail down the Mna na hEireann vote (to counteract the inevitable decline in popular support that up-coming economic policy decisions will provoke). Tactically and strategically these guys (and they are all guys) are impressive – and more impressive than I thought they would be. It seems all sorts of stuff that was once seen as valuable cargo (An Seanad, the current process of deciding the number of TDs, the often useful tension between the factions’ high commands and the local cummainn/branches in selecting candidates, possibly the voting system, who knows what) will all be thrown overboard to preserve the continuing exercise of excessive executive dominance by the High Commands.

    I’m sure a whole raft of other distracting devices are being prepared below deck to be hauled up and chucked over board when the water starts to get choppy.

    And the galling thing is that people will be distracted, discouraged and prevented from even getting a glimpse of what they want – what they really, really want – to protect from any scrutiny or reform.

  6. I must say I am presently surprised by the positive posts on this subject. There hasn’t been a mention of who’s going to mind the children. I don’t agree that this is a distraction to the ‘real reform’ that needs to be done. Women sitting at the decision making table is real reform in my view. That doesn’t imply that the men that have previously sat there weren’t there for good reasons. Given that the Irish Times couldn’t find a female economist to respond to Morgan Kelly’s nuclear missile just shows how women have been written out of the public discourse on economics. However I would prefer in the debate on this issue that gender quotas is seen as a two way street. The proposal in the Oireachtas report is that no more that two thirds of candidates should be of the one gender. That seems fair to me for both women and men.

  7. Selecting 30% women is a start. However, unless they are selected to contest winnable seats it won’t make much difference and I don’t see how that can be enforced.

  8. Paul, you beat me to it. I had this in mind; “Big Phil’s Delicious Distraction”. Keep the Mushroom heads in the dark, etc., etc. What with the country going to financial hell in a donkey cart! Where’s our FoI reform? That would make a difference.

    Sean Barrett, in his previous days, used to muse about elections. Allowed that after the election it was the number of ‘bums on seats’ that mattered, not the total number of first preferences.

    If I might misquote Robert Goodin; “votes are good, but bums are better”. Does the gender of the bum matter? Not a whit! But Big Joan as Chief Whip? And Big Phil as The Finisher*? Delicious!

    Brian

    *(the pursuit sequence in Apocalypto)

  9. I have seen some sites and Twitter account holders
    giving out about State-funds and penalties.

    So : Political parties have been accepting state funds
    for *years* and have dedicated possibly 2% to increasing
    gender-representation in Irish politics!

    Ban Ki-Moon asked for measurable reforms in increasing
    female political representation in 2006-2007, this
    appears to be the first move in that direction. I am
    of the belief that if parties wish complain about
    these penalties, then they should be questioning
    why they have accepted state funds to increase their
    parties- while quite simply not looking at positive
    ways of increasing women’s participation, such as:

    i). Internships for women in the Dáil and councils.
    ii). Modelling : women incumbents attracting others
    into the political system through Q+As, lectures,
    and communication.

    While being optimistic about the issue, I note that
    the penalties are for ‘not running’ female candidates,
    personally I’d be happier if that were changed to
    ‘returning’, because we have some amazing women
    of expertise whose opinions are generally ignored
    by the political boy’s club.

    If this issue results in pol parties ring-fencing
    party funds to increase women’s participation, then
    that is indeed a measurable reform and sure they
    can reject state interference if it irks them
    to have to access funds based in increasing
    democratic particpation, cos last time I looked
    I was part of a society and like many women
    require that my voice is reflected in policy
    and legislation. I have been to Dáil debates where
    not one woman has spoken on justice issues- thats
    a disgrace imo.

  10. One part of me loves that this is happening. There is a dire need for far more women in Irish politics and I have no doubt that this measure will result in an increase in not only female candidates but also female TD’s and ministers.

    On the other hand it does seem like quite a bludgeoning answer to a very complex and nuanced topic. In addition to that I would also hate the thought of being presented with a sub standard female candidate to vote for, just because a better potential candidate just happened to be a man.

    I would like to see an informed debate for both sides of this proposal before I could whole heatedly support it or oppose it. Some measure is certainly needed though and I’m glad that the government are taking it seriously.

  11. Conor,

    I have seen this argument online and I wonder at the
    word ‘sub-standard’, I think it a red herring.

    If the standard is delineated by years of positive
    discrimination towards young men, and I have seen
    this (btw), who is to judge what comprises a
    political standard in a system that is in dire
    need of reform?

    I believe that there is expertise there amongst
    women candidates and as I stated above, a democracy
    should be representative – ours is not. Women
    do not speak on crucial legislative issues, I
    have been to debates where not one woman spoke
    on criminal justice issues. It is about time
    that the standard was examined and reformed imo.

    I think that there is a need for the system to
    open out because there are problems that have
    not been addressed by political parties over
    many years, if gender-reresentation could not
    be increased by funding (only 2% of state funds
    went toward women in Pols ) , then maybe ‘stopping
    funding’ or querying funding directions is a last resort ?

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