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Beyond the Dáil: Will Gender Quotas Make a Difference?

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This September graduate student Danielle Brady visited the NCCWN Donegal Women’s Network office as part of her master’s thesis project research gathering. We chatted about the local realities for women running for election, breaking into politics and discussed the recent 2019 local elections and our post-election commentary were we asked Why so few Women in Donegal Politics? In October Danielle was awarded a first class Masters honours degree from Queens University for her project research. We are delighted to see a young woman such as Danielle achieve such an award, it was clear from meeting her that she has so much passion and knowledge in this area and we wish her all the best in her budding and bright future.  

 

In this months Women’s Live’s, Women’s Voice’ feature Danielle Brady shares her research on the impact of national gender quotas on candidate selection at the local level. 

 


In July 2012 the government introduced gender quotas for general elections. The introduced legislation referred to as ‘The 2012 Electoral (Amendment) (Political Funding) Act’ stipulated that state funding for political parties would be reduced by 50% “unless at least 30 per cent of the candidates whose candidatures were authenticated by the qualified party at the preceding general election were women and at least 30 per cent were men” increasing to 40% seven years thereafter.  The quotas were first used in the 2016 general election. It is difficult to conclude the full extent of their success, given that only one election has been held since their introduction. However, there are some positive signifiers, as the 2016 election saw the highest number of women both running for and elected to Dáil Eireann. But, what about local government? Have the quotas had any impact on female representation at the local level?

 


 

Although not legislated for at the local level it may be expected that the quotas at national level would result in a contagion or diffusion effect at the local level, given the fact the local government acts a “springboard” “into national politics. Research conducted by political scientists has found that those who have served in local government are better positioned to secure a seat in the national legislature. In fact, 90% of female TD’s elected in 2016 had at some stage in their careers served in local government. Given this link, it might be expected that political parties would seek to increase the number of women on local election tickets so as create a pool of candidates to select from for future general elections.

Looking at the recent local elections held in May 2019, we see an overall increase in the percentage of female candidates. In total 1,975 individuals contested the elections, 561 of which were female meaning that 28.4% of candidates contesting the elections were women, increasing from 21.6% in the previous election in 2014. Although an overall increase was recorded the extent of this varied between the political parties. As evidenced in the graph below, the four main parties Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and Labour all recorded varying levels of female candidacy, increasing the proportion of women candidates at various rates.

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Despite the variation in female candidacy between parties, each party cited did increase the proportion of female candidates selected to contest the local elections in 2019. But what has contributed to this increase and can a link be drawn between this increase and the introduced national gender quotas?

Interviews with representatives from the four main parties, deduced that the quotas did indeed have an indirect impact on candidate selection for local elections. Those interviewed acknowledged an awareness within parties for a need to increase the number of women candidates at local level so as to create a pool of candidates for national election to meet the gender quota. They furthermore pointed to the role quotas played in instilling a change in culture within parties with regard to gender, whereby gender is now considered by party recruiters in a manner in which it had not previously been. However, while the quotas played an indirect role in increasing the number of female candidates, they were not the sole contributing factor. Instead further factors emerged including political mobilisation surrounding the recent referendums, whereby women who had been involved in campaigns surrounding the referendum on equal marriage and the referendum to repeal the eighth amendment, had approached political parties to put themselves forward as candidates. A third yet smaller factor also emerged; the government incentive which saw parties receive €100 per female candidate if they increased their female representation when compared to the last local elections in 2014.


 

While each of these three factors including the quotas resulted in the four main parties increasing their female candidacy, variations were recorded within each of the parties in term of geography as evidenced in the table below:

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In trying to understand why such discrepancies exist within parties two factors emerge. The issue of incumbents was cited by political party representatives and representatives from the National Women’s Council, Women for Election and NCCWN Donegal’s Women Network as a barrier to increasing female representation whereby a high number of (male) incumbents in an area creates difficulties in adding women to the ticket. Furthermore resistance from party branches at the local level was cited as barrier to increasing the number of women candidates. Such resistance is not exclusive to gender promotion but rather tends to exist towards directives given from national level or HQ to constituency branches.

Although the quotas do appear to have had a positive indirect impact on candidate selection at local level, the extent of this impact differs both between and within the four main political parties. Furthermore the quotas were not the sole contributor to the increase in proportion of female candidates with political mobilisation surrounding the recent referendums and the government incentive also playing a role. Despite the positive influence of these factors women continue to be underrepresented both in terms of candidacy and elected officials with women accounting for just 24% of councillors. Thus, measures must be taken to ensure greater female representation in local government.

 


About the author: Danielle Brady has recently completed a Master of Arts in Politics in Queen’s University Belfast, having graduated from Maynooth University in 2018 with a degree in Philosophy Politics and Economics. The above piece is based on research carried out for her Masters dissertation with the same title.


 

NCCWN Donegal are always looking for women to share their stories and looking for women to write features on topics of their choice which we will profile as part of our Women’s Lives, Women’s Voices’ series.

The Art of Wellness

THE ART OF WELLNESS

NCCWN Donegal Women’s Network invites you to join us on Saturday 23rd November 10.30am-3pm in the Donegal Women’s Centre in Letterkenny for our Women’s ‘The Art of Wellness’ event. This unique day will look at the importance of women’s health, human rights and wellness.

This event builds on from a series of arts activism Workshops NCCWN Donegal delivered this year in support of the national ‘Sort Our Smears Campaign’ which creates awareness to the Cervical Screening scandal which has impacted thousands of women’s lives in Ireland. From these workshops’ women produced a number of art pieces to reflect how the felt about the situation, locally in in Donegal and nationally.


The Art of Wellness will be an interactive day made up of a combination of informative discussions and demonstrations, a creative art activity and health awareness raising. During the day we will be joined by the Marie Keating Foundation who will provide practical advice and supportive information in relation to cancer and women’s health. This will be followed by a creative art session with Barbara O’Meara the Community Artist who developed the ‘Sort Our Smears Campaign’ and the ‘Stitched With Love’ a collaborative community art project to make a Baby Blanket with 796 white squares to honour the Tuam Babies and Mothers.

Following a light lunch, in the afternoon we will be joined by Sarah Casey of SarahJaneYoga.com, who will facilitate an essential oils demonstration and talk about the benefits of essential oils for stress relief and positive wellness.  We end the day with Mary Kara from Donegal Mindfulness who will give an introduction to mindfulness and lead a gentle meditation.


The Art of Wellness is a day for women to come together and discover practical ways to develop positive health and wellbeing. While also creating the space to reflect on the importance of supporting and ensuring women’s health locally and globally. We also have a raffle prize for a lucky winner on the day too!

This is a free event and spaces are limited, so if you would like to secure your place, please fill in our online booking form here.


 

This event  has been part funded by Donegal Changemakers under their Seeds of Change small grants scheme.

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Learn to make your own Xmas Decorations

 

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NCCWN Donegal Women’s Network are inviting women to come learn how to make your very own xmas decorations. We will be hosting a two day workshop on Tuesday 12th and Wednesday 13th November 10am-12pm, in our office in Donegal Town.

 

The workshop will be facilitated and you will be shown how to make a number of  unique decorations. The cost of the workshop is €5 and materials will be provided.

 

We have limited spaces for these workshops so please fill in this online google form here to book your place.

 

For further information please contact NCCWN Donegal Women’s Network by email on donegalwomensnetwork@gmail.com or 074 9722790. Booking is essential, book early to avoid disappointment.

This entry was posted on October 8, 2019, in 2019, Workshop.

When Life Changes Your Plans

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How do you recover when your life and way of living is thrown off course?

In this Women’s Live’s, Women’s Voice’ feature Sarah shares her story and unique journey to create a new life for herself and family in Donegal after a major life change.

 


 

Sarah is a yoga teacher and essential oil educator in Donegal. She supports women who are exhausted, stressed & overwhelmed. Through her approaches she supports women how to learn to revitalize their energy and reduce stress so they not only feel amazing but feel recharged and refreshed, ready to embrace life.

 

 

3My story begins in November 2015. Living in New York with my husband and 2 children. My husband was not legal and we tried to get him a Greencard or visa so he could legalise his status. We both had great jobs, I had just became a partner in a Bar and Restaurant and Hughie – a foreman for a construction company that he had worked for since first coming to New York in 2001. We had just moved into our home that we purchased in 2014. Our hard work was finally starting to pay off. Success was here and now our American Dream was commencing! We had everything we wanted, our beautiful children, our home and the Careers we strived for.

 


 

ICEOne morning in November as Hughie was going to work, he left our house like always at 6am to be met by Immigration Law Enforcement – ICE. Immediately he was arrested, taken into Manhattan for booking and transferred to Jersey to a detention Centre. He was getting deported! Our life was ruined! We were completely devastated and fought to the very last minute of getting on the plane to stop this deportation. Having one week to pack up our life, our home and leave the country we had both known & loved for 14 years, The Country our kids were born in, We arrived back in Ireland Thanksgiving morning (ironically)

 


 

The first year was a complete blur, we were still living in a little bit of hope that this nightmare would be over and we would be back in NY, we searched for someone that could help us, hopes were lifted and then dropped so quickly that it was a roller coaster ride of emotions each day. It was the closest to rock bottom that I had ever been emotionally. I was running on empty. I couldn’t sleep and when I did manage to sleep I would wake up in the middle of the night with that heavy heart realising that the nightmare was real.

A year went by and we were still on the hunt to get someone to help, we tried countless lawyers and anybody we encountered for help. Living in Ireland was just not in our life ́s plan. We were shattered. For the next two years I would go back & forth to NY, leaving my kids for weeks at a time to work in the restaurant and help out as much as I could, especially during the busy periods of Christmas, Easter etc so needless to say missing out on school plays, major events in my kids’ lives. We had the house so I had to organise repairs etc. Dealing with tenants etc… It was hard but overtime it became the new norm for all of us. Then my time in Ireland consisted of being a stay at home mom. Looking back I had to live two lives!

 


 

Over time…. This was starting to crumble, I couldn’t maintain this lifestyle. We had to let go…. it was eating us alive and we had two wonderful kids that were just happy being with mom and dad.

So I decided to become a yoga teacher, I always loved the practice of yoga and was a member of a fantastic yoga studio while living in NY. So I picked a teacher training in London and commuted back and forth so I wasn’t away from my kids too much. Once I completed my course, it took me 6 months to pluck up the courage to teach my first class… after that I never looked back. I began teaching classes in my local area going from one village to the next. Starting to get a following I started to see how I was helping people believe in themselves. Seeing these women feel stronger mentally and physically was bringing  joy to my heart.

 


 

So now here I am currently with a great yoga business in Donegal, I added essential oils into my business and the combination of both are amazing!  I love my life! I love being a stay at home mom while also having my yoga business which I love. I still go to NY during the summer with my kids so they don’t lose sight of where they came from and give them the best life I can provide to them by having the best of both worlds.

I don’t work in the Restaurant business anymore and that was a blessing in disguise,  so now I enjoy all the holidays with my kids and I work around the school calendar. I have created the life and business I have always wanted!

 


 

2So this quote will close my talk perfectly….. “what if the worst thing that happened you ended up being the best thing that ever happened to you”. So if you take anything from this story…. Take this advice… ACCEPTANCE is what got me through this ordeal. When I accepted what had happened and nothing was going to bring back the life we longed for, things started to happen. The pining thoughts for my old life started to melt away, I began to focus on how to make my current situation and life into a life that I have always dreamed of. I realised how Strong I actually was as a woman and the powerful woman in me started to show up everyday.

So go with the flow even in times of doubt or when you think life is not going your way!! Everything is happening around us….. For us!

 


NCCWN Donegal are always looking for women to share their stories and looking for women to write features on topics of their choice which we will profile as part of our Women’s Lives, Women’s Voices’ series.