Electoral Amendment Bill starts to level the playing field for women

Today the Electoral Amendment Bill reaches report stage in the Dáil. The bill tinkers with the framework for the financing of political parties and individuals involved in politics. It’s main areas of concern are disclosure of donations and also gender quotas to ensure women are encouraged to enter into politics. It’s the latter that I’m interested in.

After a year and a half in the Oireachtas, I have no doubt that there is a deeply rooted systemic culture of discrimination against women in Irish politics. But this historic legislation will start to redress the balance, by cutting funding from any party that fails to run 30% women in the next general election.

However, the legislation falls down in two crucial areas and I have been tabling amendments throughout committee and report stages to address these issues. Firstly, the quotas don’t apply to local elections. Minister Hogan outlined that there was no way for this bill to implement gender quotas at a local level – but was open to it if a suitable forcing mechanism could be found.

The second issue with the bill is the length of time it will take for the gender quotas to rise from 30% to 40%. As it currently stands, it will take over 13 years for this to happen. This is too long a wait. Regardless, today is a good day for women in Irish politics. Doubtless, it will take a few electoral cycles for this legislation to make a difference, but it’s great news that we are starting to level the playing field for women.

  • Stephen – I dearly hope you reconsider supporting this. Gender quotas – any kind of quotas – that restrict who goes forward for election are against basic principles (and rationale) for a demoracy. Why? (i) we simply won’t get the best people for the job. And what job is more important than government? More quotas = less optimal representation. (ii) undemocratic – gender decides who the people can vote for (iii) unequal – promotes women ahead of men (iv) introduces 1980s gender politics into the parliament. 

    People are people. They stand for election as people who promise to perform well in parliament, whatever their gender, orientation, color. Every person has an equal opportunity to go forth and be elected. 

    You realize that the older politicians won’t be voted out or step down anytime soon, so this bill will mean that they’ll have to choose women as their junior constituency partners for the next 3 – 4 election cycles. If I was a young man wanting to get into politics, I’d be severely handicapped. Level playing field indeed.

    I’m really confounded by the groupthink behind this bill.