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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.

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.

Historical Donegal Women

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In this Women’s Lives Women’s Voices feature Historian Dr Angela Byrne from Donegal highlights the historical struggles faced by women here in Ireland. And she pays tribute to Rose Brogan, Ethna Carbery, Máire de Paor, Maureen Wall, née MacGeehin, Kathleen ‘Kay’ McNulty and Margaret ‘Pearl’ Dunlevy, inspiring historical women with Donegal connections. 

 


By Angela Byrne

This is a good time to reflect on women in Irish society in the past and in the present. The ‘Decade of Centenaries’ and its commemorations gave the people of Ireland an opportunity to re-examine the keystone moments in our national story. Remarkable figures emerged from the shadows as we heard new stories about the women and children of the 1913 Lockout and the Easter Rising. The volunteer-run Her story Project established a series of local and national events to provide a platform for telling Irish women’s stories. One of the great successes of the recent commemorations was the naming of Dublin’s newest bridge after the republican and labour activist, Rosie Hackett. This is the first of our capital’s twenty-one bridges to bear a woman’s name.


 

0194400c0c609b470d95a4db3335e62dIn 2018, we celebrated the centenary of what Catriona Crowe has called “the single greatest human rights achievement of the entire decade of centenaries” – the extension of voting rights to women on 6 February 1918. The Representation of the People Act enfranchised some 8.4 million women across Britain and Ireland – but only property-holders aged 30 and above. In 1922, the constitution of the Irish Free State extended the franchise to all Irish women and men aged 21 and over, but for a period of four years, younger and poorer women remained voiceless.

Women’s suffrage was won after decades of effort by campaigners like Anna and Thomas Haslam of the Women’s Suffrage Association, and the more “militant” Irish Women’s Franchise League (IWFL) established by Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington and Margaret Cousins. The IWFL brought much more public attention to the women’s movement because they refused to be confined by social expectations of women’s behaviour. Tactics ranged from petitioning to window smashing. In 1909, English suffragettes in became the first to use hunger striking as a form of protest, leading to the infamous ‘Cat and Mouse Act’ of 1913, which allowed the temporary release and recapture of hunger strikers in response to public objections to force-feeding. In 1912, the Irish Women’s Franchise League established its own weekly newspaper, The Irish Citizen, which ran until 1920. In its pages, suffragists of all political shades debated their differing interpretations of feminism.

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There was a rapid growth of women’s suffrage groups throughout Ireland. In Sligo Eva and Constance Gore Booth set up a branch of the IWSGLA. By 1914 there were 26 suffrage societies with almost 3,000 members. Although committed to the same aim, these societies often represented distinct social and political groups e.g. the Conservative and Unionist Women’s Franchise Association, Irish Catholic Women’s Suffrage Society, Unionist Women’s Franchise Association. The activities of these societies were uncoordinated. In 1911 Louie Bennett (1870 -1956) and Helen Chenevix (1880-1963) helped establish the Irish Women’s Suffrage Federation (IWSF) to link the suffrage groups together. The IWSF was non-militant and non-sectarian.


On 21 November 1918, the UK parliament voted in the Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act. The act simply stated: “A woman shall not be disqualified by sex or marriage for being elected to or sitting or voting as a Member of the Commons House of Parliament.” Women aged over 21 now had the right to stand for general election. Just weeks later, on 14 December 1918, Constance Markievicz became the first woman to win a seat at Westminster. She abstained in favour of sitting in the First Dáil.

 

In her celebrated 1995 book The Prospect Before Her, the historian Olwen Hufton wrote that women’s absence from history pointed to “either a grave sin of omission or to a flagrant suppression of the evidence, and hence to a distortion of the record by historians of former times. Whether the omission was unconscious or deliberate, the result was the same: women, with a few notable exceptions, had been denied a history.” Let’s celebrate our suffrage centenary by continuing to challenge that denial, to give silenced women a voice.

 


Discover some of Donegal’s Historical Women

 

Please take the time to read further features written by Angela and discover more about Donegal’s inspiring historical women by clicking on the pictures below.


“I hope that these features will raise awareness of the richness of the lives of Donegal women in the past, shine a light on their achievements, and show how they overcame barriers to education and other obstacles. Reflecting on past lives can help us to contextualise current issues and to understand changes and continuities. With that in mind, this series will focus on past women’s struggles for equality, access to education and work, and social justice.”

Dr Angela Byrne

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


About Dr Angela Byrne

Dr. Angela ByrneAngela Byrne is a historian specialising in migration and women’s history. She is Research Associate at Ulster University and, in 2018-19, was the inaugural DFAT Historian-in-Residence at EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum. She is author of Geographies of the Romantic North (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), A Scientific, Antiquarian and Picturesque Tour: John (Fiott) Lee in Ireland, England and Wales, 1806–1807 (Routledge for Hakluyt Society, 2018), and many articles and book chapters on the histories of travel and exploration, the Irish abroad, and women in the sciences.

She has previously held lecturing and research positions in University of Toronto, University of Greenwich, Maynooth University, and the Royal Irish Academy, as well as visiting fellowships at Cambridge University, the All-Russia State Library for Foreign Literature (Moscow), and the Huntington Library (Los Angeles). Her research is concerned with cross-cultural encounters and the experiences of women and migrants in the past.

 


NCCWN Donegal Women’s Network have had the privilege of Angela giving insight into the lives of historical  Donegal women over the past few years at past events, including most recently our 2019 Balance for Better International Women’s Day Event in March, where Angela gave a talk on the political life of Letterkenny local Kate McCarry, Donegal’s first ever elected female county councillor.

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NCCWN Donegal Women’s Network have had the privilege of Angela giving insight into the lives of historical  Donegal women over the past few, including most recently our 2019 Balance for Better International Women’s Day Event in March, where Angela gave a talk on the political life of Letterkenny local Kate McCarry Donegal’s first ever elected female county councillor.


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, so please get in touch if you would like to write a feature.

Small Changes Can Make a Big Difference

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This feature is part of the NCCWN Donegal Women’s Network, ‘Women’s Lives, Women’s Voices’ series. Written by Deirdre Kennedy who reflects on her journey to reduce the amount of plastic waste generate in her home. Giving a number of practical examples she has adopted to reduce her plastic usage.


As a woman I feel a huge responsibility for the amount of plastic waste that we as a gender generate every month. As the mother of four girls and two boys there was a huge amount of waste leaving our house every week.

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Did you know the amount of plastic waste generated per person in Ireland is estimated to be 60kg [1] (132 pounds) in weight.

One of the easiest changes that we as women can make is in our personal care. On the shelf sanitary wear is almost completely made from plastic and like nappies these take hundreds of years to breakdown in landfill.

 

A great substitute for sanitary towels is cloth sanitary protection( CSP) these are  so comfortable and absorbent and come in varying  sizes and shapes and in the long term a money saving investment, most will last 10 years if you have a large bundle in rotation, or 5 years in a smaller bundle.

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On average women and girls face and estimated cost of €132.34 [2] for sanitary products per year in Ireland. Which over the course of their lives amounts to at least €3970.

If you are a user of tampons then you may be interested in a Menstrual cup, If you have never heard of these before they are a medical grade silicone that is shaped like a small egg cup it is used in the same way as a tampon.

 

When I discovered the menstrual cup it was like an epiphany for me I truly felt like I had been freed from the shackles of my period. It is so handy and liberating not having to carry around pads and tampons. The cup can just be removed, emptied into the toilet, wiped or washed in the sink and reinserted it is really that simple. Women who have used CSP and menstrual cups for a few months have also reported less painful periods.

 

Being responsible for most of the products that come into my home and the waste management of it leaving, made me realise that there was so much more that I could do to reduce our use of plastic.

 

I started using cloth nappies and cloth baby wipes, cloth breast pads, Cloth make up removers, Re-useable cloths in the kitchen in the place of kitchen roll (cut up old towels or t-shirts), cloths for washing in the shower or bath. All these items can be rinsed in a cold wash and then washed in the washing machine at 60 °C using biological powder and they will be pristine ready for reusing.

 

There is a huge amount of other changes that can be made by humans in order to reduce our use of plastic. These, that I listed above are just small changes that anyone can make not only will you see a huge reduction in the waste that leaves your house but you will also feel that you have made a big difference to the future of our planet.

 

Deirdre practical tips to help reduce your plastic usage

Did you know it is  Plastic Free July?

Plastic Free July is a global movement that helps millions of people be part of the solution to plastic pollution – so we can have cleaner streets, oceans, and beautiful communities. Will you be part of Plastic Free July by choosing to refuse single-use plastics? To find out more about this global movement check out the https://www.plasticfreejuly.org/ website.

[1] 2018 Europa Report https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/web/products-eurostat-news/-/EDN-20180422-1?inheritRedirect=true

[2] Irish Times https://www.irishtimes.com/news/health/half-of-young-irish-women-struggling-to-afford-sanitary-products-study-finds-1.3534683

 

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.