Justin Trudeau offers advice on finding gender balance to Leo Varadkar

The Taoiseach has sought the advice of Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau on how to achieve a gender balance in politics.

While Leo Varadkar said there are different interpretations of feminism, he claimed that if it equates to equality between men and women “then I’m a feminist”.

Mr Varadkar wants to increase the number of female Fine Gael TDs to 20 after the next general election in a bid to introduce gender equality in the Dáil.

The Fine Gael leader raised the issue of encouraging more women into politics during his hour-long meeting with Mr Trudeau at Farmleigh House yesterday morning.

Mr Trudeau, who was Mr Varadkar’s first foreign visitor since he became leader, has achieved a 50/50 gender split in his cabinet.

While Brexit, the CETA trade deal and the environment were all discussed, Mr Varadkar said he was “very impressed” by Mr Trudeau’s record on gender equality in government and sought some advice from him.

Mr Varadkar said: “I am always of the view that diversity leads to better decision making.

“Diversity is about more than gender but diversity in general leads to better decision making and we should try to have a Government and parliament that looks like the country that it represents.

“I did seek some advice from Justin on this because I am very impressed by the fact that he has a cabinet that is gender balanced.”

However, the Taoiseach also pointed out that of the 12 women — including Independent TD Katherine Zappone — who support the current Government, 10 are either ministers or chair an Oireachtas committee.

“Fine Gael already has more female TDs than any other party at 11, but I want it to be much higher, I would like it to be 50/50 and at least 20 after the next election, thus giving me more scope to promote even more women than are promoted already.

“So that’s the space that I want to be in.”

Mr Trudeau, who visited the Famine memorial, the EPIC exhibition and Arás an Uachtaráin before an attending an official dinner in Dublin Castle last night, said he had shared the challenges he faced in recruiting women to run for his party and enter politics.

“For some reason it’s more difficult to get women to run for politics than it is to get men to run for politics,” said Mr Trudeau.

“When you ask a woman if she will step forward and run her first question is: ‘Really? Do you think I should? Do you think I can? Do you think I am qualified enough?’ You ask a man to run for politics and his first question is: ‘What took you so long to ask me?’

“So it does take a deliberate effort to reach out and recruit great women candidates.”

Mr Trudeau arrived in Dublin from Ottowa on Monday and is being accompanied on the trip by his wife Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau and their son Hadrien.

He said getting more women into positions of power and authority “is not just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do”.

“I certainly encouraged Leo to do that and he agreed that it’s something that we need to be taking seriously to recruit more women into politics so we can promote them and give them the leadership roles that not just they need but we need,” he said.


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