While gender quotas have been applied at national level, meaning at least 30% of general election candidates must be female, there are no stipulations when it comes to local elections.
Under the plans, political parties could receive funding to hire a women’s officer who would promote and support women in the party.
It is understood that the Department is supportive of the initiative, which was put forward by the Oireachtas Women’s Caucus, and are working to bring in measures before the 2019 local elections in a bid to encourage more women to stand.
Chair of the Women’s Caucus, Catherine Martin, who brought the suggestions to the department, pointed out that gender quotas have succeeded in electing more women to the Dáil, but at local level 79% of councillors are men, which she said needs to change.
Ms Martin said she believes the funding incentive could be introduced through regulation rather than legislation, which would mean it could be in place for next year’s local elections.
“I am hopeful that there will be something in place for next year,” she said. “We have seen how gender quotas have worked in the general election, we need something to encourage women to get involved at a local level.
“It has been shown that locally elected positions offer a springboard into national politics.”
Earlier this month, the Collins Institute, a policy think tank supported by Fine Gael, also called for further supports to encourage greater participation by women across all aspects of Irish life, including business and politics. They suggested that gender quotas to be introduced for local election candidates from 2019.
The Women’s Council of Ireland also supports gender quotas at a local level.