It may take two more elections before gender quotas are fully accepted and become a normal part of the political system, but they have already boosted the number of women entering Leinster House. So far, 32 women have been elected to the 32nd Dáil with at least two more expected to cross the line after recounts.
The National Women’s Council of Ireland says the quota system has already initiated change in the “culture of political parties” and believe they have worked.
Friday’s election saw a jump in the number of new female faces elected including Green Party member Catherine Martin in Dublin Rathdown and Independent Catherine Connolly in Galway East.
Fianna Fáil has recorded a significant jump in the number of women now representing the party at national level. These include first-time TDs Fiona O’Loughlin in Kildare South; Lisa Chambers in Mayo; Niamh Smyth in Cavan-Monaghan; and Mary Butler in Waterford.
Fine Gael has seen Kate O’Connell of Dublin Bay South; Maria Bailey representing Dún Laoghaire; Josepha Madigan in Dublin Rathdown and Galway West’s Hildegarde Naughton enter the Dáil. And Sinn Féin has also seen gains in the number of women elected.
Louise Glennon of the National Women’s Council of Ireland said: “We would say that gender quotas have worked, it’s important to point out that it’s a quota for candidates, it’s not a quota for TDs. But at the same time we have seen an increase in women elected.”
As the first-ever woman elected in Cork South West, Margaret Murphy- O’Mahony, hopes more females will look to a career in politics. However, she said: “I am against gender quotas; I think women or men should be elected on their own merits but I hope this will encourage more women.”
First-time TD Mary Butler does not have a problem with quotas but said she would have not accepted being parachuted onto the party ticket purely to meet gender targets.
“I came through convention and it was a very tough convention, I believe if you are good enough, you will get it on your own merits,” the new Waterford TD said.
“But in some cases I accept a gender quota is needed especially where political dynasties prevail,” she said.
Longford-Westmeath was one of the constituencies where a candidate was controversially placed on the Fianna Fáil ticket by party headquarters purely to meet gender quotas. The decision to select Connie Gerety-Quinn outside of convention split the party at local level. Although she came close, she was eliminated last night after a recount.
In Dublin South-West, after a full recount, Independent Katherine Zappone won the seat ahead of Fine Gael’s Anne-Marie Dermody. The recount had been called by Ms Dermody when just 153 votes separated them.
And in Dublin South Central AAA-PBP candidate Brid Smith and Catherine Ardagh of Fianna Fáil were also facing into a recount yesterday when just 35 votes separated them.
Ms Glennon said while the political parties were required to put forward 30% women candidates this time, it will take a number of elections before the practice is completely accepted: “From looking internationally to countries that have adopted gender quotes it takes around three elections to bed down. There were real attempts to challenge the quota in some areas and people felt it was unfair and there is no doubt the quota has caused some hardship in some constituencies. But that hardship had to happen to bring about change.”
The 30% gender quota saw 163 women contest seats — up from 86 in 2011.