TDs call for gender equality in cabinet

There have been calls for the next government to be comprised equally of men and women, in the spirit of commemorating 100 years since women were allowed vote for the fist time.

Outstanding inequalities in boardrooms and politics still must be addressed, proclaimed TDs during special statements on the centenary of women’s suffrage.

Culture Minister Josepha Madigan said that while Constance Markievicz became the first female cabinet member in 1919, it was another 60 years before another woman sat at cabinet.

A programme of commemorations were announced yesterday for the year.

“We have made much progress in this House to provide better equal opportunities for all, but we still have a way to travel,” said Ms Madigan. “It is timely, on the 100th anniversary of the extension of the franchise to women, to redouble our efforts to provide that opportunity.”

The passing of the Representation of the People Act 1918 was marked yesterday. It granted first limited voting rights for women. Later in 1918, women were also given the right to stand as candidates for election.

Ms Markievicz, in the Dublin St Patrick’s constituency, became the first and only woman elected in the general election of 1918.

Full electoral equality and voting rights for women only came about in 1922.

Former tánaiste Joan Burton called for the number of women to equal that of men in the next government.

“That would be a real breakthrough in the spirit of the women who achieved suffrage,” she said. “We need women’s life experience, not just in the Dáil where it is now with greater numbers, but to be present in Cabinet.”

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he wants to see more women in Cabinet — about 20% of TDs are women, the same level of representation at Cabinet.

Fianna Fáil arts spokeswoman Niamh Smyth said a lot more needs to change across society, while inequality still exists in boardrooms, at managerial level, and in salaries.

“Ireland’s female boardroom representation currently stands at around 16% and the National Women’s Council have called for quotas in the country to ensure a fairer representation in business,” she said, adding that 25 of the 40 constituencies have at least one female TD.

Ms Madigan committed the Government to further rooting out inequality.

“We will take measures to reduce the gender pay gap — inclusive of increasing investment in childcare, and reviewing the lower pay of women and gender inequality for senior appointments,” she said

The Government, she added, is promoting an increase of female representation on state boards to at least 40%.

Ms Madigan then quoted remarks by Ms Markievicz from the Dáil in March 1922, which read: “I have worked in Ireland, I have even worked in England, to help the women to obtain their freedom. I would work for it anywhere, as one of the crying wrongs of the world, that women, because of their sex, should be debarred from any position or any right that their brains entitle them a right to hold.”


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