The lack of women in the Dáil is unacceptable, Ceann Comhairle John O’Donoghue said today.
Branding Leinster House old-fashioned, the former Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform said the best way to drive change is for women to do it themselves.
Mr O’Donoghue told a meeting of the National Women’s Council in Dublin the Dáil was operating under antiquated rules but could be reformed.
At last year’s general election only 22 women were elected to the Dáil out of 166 seats.
“There is no doubt that women are under-represented in political life. This is not desirable,” the Kerry TD said.
Mr O’Donoghue encouraged women to get involved in local politics and to bring their ideas and agendas to TDs and representatives for parties to consider.
He made the call after the issue was raised by the council’s chief executive Joanna McMinn who asked how the Houses of the Oireachtas could change in order to encourage more women into politics.
“There is no doubt that politics is a demanding life for anybody,” the Ceann Comhairle said.
“It is particularly demanding for people with families, and more demanding still for women with families.
“As Ceann Comhairle I observe these things, but I cannot of course reform the Dáil. I have, however, used my office to facilitate discussions between the party whips on Oireachtas reform.”
There are only 13 women in the Seanad out of 60 putting the overall female representation in the Houses of the Oireachtas at only 15%.
He said discussions were going well and focussed on areas of procedure, how to make parliament more lively, to make debates more interesting
“But at some point the parties could consider whether the hours, the late night votes, the lifestyle, is antiquated and could be changed,” he said.
Mr O’Donoghue also said the Oireachtas Committee system offered a means for politicians and society to engage directly and to ensure legislation was improved as a result.
But he said the parliamentary system as a whole must be more open to groups and individuals.
“Of course I would like to see more women elected to the Houses of the Oireachtas,” he said.
“But I would also like to see more women coming to the Houses of the Oireachtas to make their case, lobby their TDs, give evidence to committees, and generally hold the members of your parliament to account.”