Holly Cairns: Gender stereotypes are still there in politics

A female TD whose partner is also a member of the Dáil was told that “being a politician’s wife is no life for you”.
Holly Cairns: Gender stereotypes are still there in politics

A female TD whose partner is also a member of the Dáil was told that “being a politician’s wife is no life for you”.

Holly Cairns, who was elected in Cork South West for the Social Democrats in last month’s general election, says that politics has a long way to go before arriving at any level of gender equality.

She related a story of meeting a constituent soon after the election who sympathised with her on the basis that she was now condemned to being a politician’s wife.

Ms Cairns’ partner is Christy O’Sullivan, who was elected to the Dáil in the same constituency for Fianna Fáil.

“I’m not married, yet I’m seen as a politician’s wife. I am a TD yet I’m not seen as a politician,” she told the Mick Clifford Podcast.

She related another incident, in which she was approached just after the election by somebody offering congratulations.

“I said thank you very much, presuming it was for taking the seat and she said: ‘When are you due?’ I wasn’t pregnant but rumours go about.

That doesn’t happen to men in politics.

Ms Cairns was the only woman returned for any of the Cork county or city constituencies in the election.

Ms Cairns also said the current crisis has changed the approach of all parties in relation to current Dáil. Soon after the election, the Social Democrats ruled themselves out of entering government with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.

“To a certain extent, people are saying that everybody has to step up for the country so we are in contact with other party leaders regarding the crisis and potential solutions,” she said.

“We also think its important to make decisions in a way that is not a knee jerk reaction.”

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