Taoiseach Leo Varadkar urged to help in drive for more women candidates

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has been urged to match crowdfunding of 56,000 euro to train 300 women to run in the local elections.

After declaring himself a feminist and setting a target of 20 female Fine Gael TDs in the next Dail, Mr Varadkar is being asked to stump up the cash.

In a letter to the Taoiseach, the Women for Election campaign group thanked him for a personal 200 euro donation but asked him to go one step further and get the Government behind the equality drive.

Chair of the volunteer group Michelle O'Donnell Keating said the additional funds raised by the public would help subsidise training for the 2019 local elections.

"We are heartened to see your support for our organisation and its mission to inspire and equip women to succeed in politics," she told the Taoiseach.

"We are pleased too to learn of your intention to increase the number of women parliamentarians within Fine Gael after the next election, and very much hope that we can work with you in achieving that."

The #MoreWomen crowdfunding campaign had set a target of 50,000 euro but surpassed it with support from 822 backers.

Ms O'Donnell Keating said the organisation, which was founded in 2012, could do more if matching funds were made available by Government.

"Our cross-party model is innovative internationally, and has been profiled numerous times at European level as an example of good practice," she said.

"We want to increase our impact in this electoral cycle, with your support.

"Fine Gael is the party in Government that has done most to promote women's political participation.

"The 2012 gender quota legislation was a game-changer, and something your party should be very proud of.

"We are asking you to build on this by providing match funding to Women for Election to deliver on our mission in the electoral cycle leading up to 2019."

Under Irish election rules, 30% of the candidates in a political party have to be women or State funding cut is halved.

Women for Election said the additional money it is asking for would be used to increase the number of full scholarships, provide structured support, events and networking opportunities for elected women at council and Dail level including in-camera exchanges with international politicians and social media masterclasses.

It also said it would be used for training in universities to encourage more young women to contest elections within student unions, clubs and societies.

Half of the 194 women who secured seats in the 2014 local elections had been trained by Women for Election training.

- PA

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