Women's campaign targets Dáil

Politics could be hit by a massive culture change in the next 10 years if more women take up seats, it has been claimed.

Campaign group Women for Election, which aims to encourage women into politics, is on a mission to help carve out a more inclusive Government.

Co-founders Niamh Gallagher and Michelle O’Donnell Keating said women approached politics differently to men, and produced different results.

“Women are more inclined to bring groups into the Dáil, put minutes onto their websites, and they tend to be more open,” said Ms Gallagher.

“By doing that, they open up politics to new groups.

“With our work over the next 10 years, we hope increasing the number of women in politics will actually change the nature of politics.”

The group launched its new Inspire programme, which will see practical support and training given to women hoping to enter the political arena.

The launch at Mansion House in Dublin coincided with International Women’s Day and included a keynote address from journalist and broadcaster Olivia O’Leary.

Ms O’Leary, along with co-founders Ms Gallagher and Ms O’Donnell Keating said they were all in favour of the introduction of a gender quota in Government.

Environment minister Phil Hogan published legislation in December demanding that women make up at least 30% of party candidates in the next general election.

But Ms O’Donnell Keating said much more must be done to boost the number of women in top political jobs over the next decade.

“We have two local elections, two European elections and at least one if not two general elections. That’s a lot of elections and a lot of opportunities,” Ms O’Donnell Keating said.

“There’s a lot happening in Ireland in the next years to provide reflection, a time for change and examining where we are now and how we mean to fit all members of our society into the political system so it benefits everybody.”

Critics have argued that political appointments should be based solely on a candidate’s ability and not their sex.

Twenty-five out of a total 166 TDs in the Dáil are women. At 15%, that is the highest portion ever achieved in the Government.

But it places Ireland just ahead of Zimbabwe in terms of gender balance in politics.

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