Incentives for parties to back female candidates

Financial incentives for parties to run more women in the upcoming local elections are set to be agreed by Cabinet this week.

The new system, however, will stop short of introducing gender quotas for the May elections — despite calls for such from equality campaigners.

Local Government Minister John Paul Phelan will oversee the scheme, which will see parties rewarded if at least 30% of their council candidates are women.

Furthermore, parties will have to ensure they run more female candidates than the previous local elections of 2014 to ensure they get more funds.

It is understood that the amounts a party would get may be only a few hundred euro for each female candidate put into the field. This would be paid out over the five years of a council’s term.

Women for Election CEO Ciairín be Buis told the Irish Examiner the quota system for general elections needed to apply to local elections. This requires at least 30% of candidates to be women or parties receive less funds.

“Incentives are nowhere near as significant,” she said. “But anything that is a step forward is welcome. More women in local politics reflects the electorate and those roles are also a pipeline for general elections.”

Women make up 21% of city and county councils, with varying levels. Offaly has no female councillors, Carlow has one and Longford two. Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown has 17 female councillors, almost half that council, while a third of Dublin City councillors are women.

The Irish Examiner understands the measures to boost female representation at local level will be signed off on by Cabinet at a special meeting in Dublin on Friday.

The meeting, taking place on International Women’s Day, will deal with gender issues. Other matters on the agenda include a discussion on the gender pay gap, parental leave, and domestic violence.

Health Minister Simon Harris will also tell the Cabinet this week about a working group to examine removing cost barriers to accessing contraception. The group will look at legislation around contraception, licensing of products, and any other obstacles.

Meanwhile, the Government will hold an informal meeting tonight to discuss Brexit, ahead of crunch parliament votes in the UK and prior to ministers travelling for St Patrick’s Day visits.

Brexit protection measures, the launch of a future jobs plan, and the need to sell Ireland as a committed EU member during trips abroad will be discussed.

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