Varadkar supports gender quotas at local elections

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has spoken in favour of gender quotas at local level to improve female participation in politics.

Speaking at the announcement of a proposed citizens’ assembly on gender rights, Mr Varadkar said the idea of introducing financial inducements to political parties is worth considering.

“I think it would be a good idea. At the moment we have gender quotas for the general election. If a party doesn’t have 30% of one gender or the other, they lose State funding,” he said.

“I think what we could do for the local elections is do it the other way around and incentivise parties, give them additional funding for equality, youth, and diversity for parties that exceed 30% or 40%. We have a bit of time before the next local elections to do that, but in principle I think it is a good idea.”

Mr Varadkar quipped that Fine Gael would find itself in breach of such quotas if they existed at European level given it elected four women and one man to the European Parliament.

Meanwhile, Mr Varadkar said he cannot commit to publishing a report into the Maria Bailey controversy.

He said he has yet to receive the report and will have to consider privacy issues in determining whether it inappropriate to release it.

Senior counsel David Kennedy was asked by the party to “establish the facts” around Ms Bailey’s personal injuries case against the Dean Hotel.

“I have to see it first, and bear in mind there is an issue of due process here. This is an internal party inquiry, not a public inquiry, but I would have to see it first really, and I haven’t yet,” he said.

Mr Varadkar also clarified that he intends to proceed with four by-elections before the end of this year rather than moving straight to a general election.

Comments made by the Taoiseach last week were interpreted by Fine Gael TDs and senators that the by-elections would not happen.

He said: “It is not a mixed message at all. The next national election that occurs in Ireland will be the next general election. There won’t be European and local elections for another five years; the presidential doesn’t arise for another six years.

“By-elections are different, they are not national elections, they will only occur in four constituencies.”

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