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Call to introduce local election gender quotas

A women’s rights group will today launch a €35,000 crowdfunding plan to help female candidates in future elections after accusing the Government of failing to do enough to address the issue.

The Women for Election group says the public money is needed just 24 hours after Dáil Ceann Comhairle Sean O’Fearghail publicly backed local election gender quotas as a “pragmatic” step that must be taken.

Women for Election chief executive Ciairín de Buis says the recent local elections were “a missed opportunity” to improve gender balance in Irish politics.

And, calling for political parties to “step up and support more women to run”, she will confirm plans for a new €35,000 crowdfunding initiative the group hopes will help 300 women trying to enter politics.

“Despite the increase to 24% in the number of council seats taken by women, we’re disappointed that it fell short of a quarter of all council seats.

“While it represents the highest number of council seats held by women in the history of the State, it just proves how slow our political system has been to respond to changes in society as a whole.

“What’s telling for us is that the parties who ran more women candidates saw a corresponding increase in the number of women elected,” she said.

Ms de Buis separately called for the introduction of local election gender quotas in line with similar general election laws, saying “it’s time to extend that to local government”.

The view was supported by Dáil Ceann Comhairle and Fianna Fáil TD Sean O’Fearghail, who said he supports local election quotas as part of “pragmatic” steps to encourage more women to enter politics.

“I grew up in a house with three women, I have three daughters, a very strong wife, all of whom oppose the idea of quotas.

“But as a practical, pragmatic sort of individual if you’re not getting the numbers then you need to take an extraordinary steps to ensure you do,” he said.

When asked if he agreed local election gender quotas should be introduced, he replied:

“That’s an absolute yes.”

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23% of councillors elected into local government were women