The lack of diversity in the Dáil has prompted calls for quotas – and even fines – for political parties who fail to increase their gender equality records when selecting candidates, and the situation has been highlighted by the announcement by three well known women TDs that they will not stand again.
Some 47% of female voters live in the 23 of 43 Dáil constituencies which are without any women TDs – and 10 constituencies have had only male deputies representing them since 1992.
A probe by the Irish Examiner shows the Oireachtas is deeply out of step with the nation as a whole as the average age of deputies and senators is 55.8, they are 85% male and 99.2% heterosexual.
Only 23 of the 166 TDs and just a dozen senators out of 60 are women, leaving the Oireachtas ranked 82nd in the world for female representation in national assemblies by the Inter-Parliamentary Union – below Uganda and Cameroon.
The situation took a turn for the worse when Fine Gael’s Olwyn Enright and Labour’s Liz McManus and Mary Upton announced they were standing down at the next election.
The number of women candidates stood at just 82 out of 470 at the last election – the lowest figure since 1989. The situation is just as bad at local level – often the first rung of a political career – with only 17% of councillors.
Queen’s University Professor Yvonne Galligan, who presented the research at a UCC conference on women in politics showing that 47% of women do not have a female TD to represent them, said it highlighted a major problem.
“It matters that nearly half of women do not have a woman TD representing them because men have 100% male representation and only women can know what it’s like to live as a woman in Ireland. It’s definitely a form of gender disenfranchisement,” she said.
An Oireachtas report from Labour Senator Ivana Bacik has called for parties to have public money taken away from them if they fail to increase female representation.