Female TDs celebrate breakthrough election as 35 women take seats in the Dáil

Newly elected women TDs gathered in Dublin to mark a historic and breakthrough general election for women.

Female TDs celebrate breakthrough election as 35 women take seats in the Dáil

To mark International Women’s Day, the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) was joined by newly elected TD for Dublin Bay South Kate O’Connell (FG); Mayo’s Lisa Chambers (FF); Tánaiste Joan Burton (Labour); Joan Collins (Ind); Catherine Murphy (Social Democrats); and Dublin MEP Lynn Boylan (SF).

A total of 35 women were elected to the Dáil in the recent election, and now make up just over 22% of all deputies. This marks an increase from the previous record of 25 women TDs in the 2011 election.

As a result of the gender quota, a political party’s state funding can be slashed by 50% unless 30% of its candidates are women.

Louise Glennon of the NWCI said that, given the slow pace of change in terms of female representation over the last number of elections, this general election was “hugely significant” for women.

Louise Glennon of the NWCI
Louise Glennon of the NWCI

“Gender quotas were necessary to accelerate the pace of change for women’s equality, and it is clear that they were successful. Progress wasn’t happening without quotas: 20% of candidates in 1997 were women, but this fell to 18% in 2002, 17% in 2007, and 15% in 2011,” said Ms Glennon.

“It took 19 years for the percentage of women in the Dáil to increase from 12% to 15%. In one election it’s gone up to 22%, from 15%, in spite of political trends which saw several women lose their seat, and two women not stand for re-election. This is hugely significant.”

NWCI director Orla O’Connor said it was crucial that women’s equality was discussed in any negotiations for the next programme for government.

“Women voters in particular want to see investment in public services, we want an affordable childcare model, and investment in frontline domestic and sexual violence services,” said Ms O’Connor.

“Repealing the Eighth Amendment was also a key issue for voters, and one which was not a priority for the majority of candidates.”

NWCI director Orla O’Connor
NWCI director Orla O’Connor

Meanwhile, a study has ranked Ireland 28th for the number of women on boards.

The survey by EY and the Peterson Institute for International Economics was carried out across almost 22,000 publicly traded companies (52 in Ireland) from 91 countries worldwide.

The top five countries for having women on boards were Norway (40%), Latvia (25%), Italy (24%), Finland (23%), and Bulgaria (22%).

Of the Irish companies surveyed, the results indicate that 2% have a female chair and 8% a female chief executive.

Mike McKerr, the managing partner of EY Ireland, said the study shows that companies must do better.

“Companies that advance women into leadership roles will benefit from more engaged workforces, stronger cultures, and improved economic performance,” he said.

“We know that gender-balanced companies achieve better results. As business leaders we need to ask ourselves: Have we made enough progress? Are we helping enough women find their way into leadership roles in order to make our businesses better?”

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