Tag Archive | Ireland

Why so few Women in Donegal Politics?

Why so few women?

Did you know on the 6th April 1899 Ireland held its first county and rural district councils elections as set out by the enactment of the Local Government (Ireland) Act of 1898, an act which also gave women the opportunity for the first time to stand for election and a vote in these local elections?


120 years on local female political representation in Donegal stands at a mere 10.8% the highest it has ever been. Of the 37 County Councillors elected during the 2019 local elections, four were women. They include Marie Therese Gallagher (Sinn Féin), Rena Donaghey (Fianna Fáil), Niamh Kennedy (Independent) and Noreen McGarvey (Fianna Fáil). Noreen McGarvey was the only female councillor newly elected, the other three councillors were re-elected having won seats in the 2014 local elections when female representation stood at 8.1%.

With such low female representation the question arises why does Donegal not elect more women? People may say that’s just how democracy works or we shouldn’t be telling voters they should vote for a candidate just because they’re a woman. While these are valid points they do not get us closer to addressing the real problem that women are seriously underrepresented in Donegal politics. It also doesn’t address the issue of how can voters have an actual choice about who represents them when so few women are also not on election tickets. As a County is it therefore not about time we seriously evaluate how we both support and view women as our political representatives?

Working as a community sector organisation NCCWN Donegal Women’s Network knows Donegal has no shortage of talented capable women who would make ideal political representatives. So why did so few run or were identified by the political parties to stand?


The Reality

Women made up 20% (17 out of 85) of the 2019 Local Election candidates in Donegal compared with the 2014 figure of 13.2% (11 out of 83). These recent elections therefore did see a positive increase in the number of women running for local election which is really encouraging and great to see a range of women putting themselves forward, a trend we hope continues into the next local elections and beyond.

Seven political party’s ran candidates in Donegal, the three main parties; Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and Fine Gael all failed to reach a 30% female party candidate ticket list, to follow on from the general election required quota target of females on their party candidate ticket, although it should be noted during local elections this is not a mandatory legislated requirement. While of the 29 Independent candidates women made up 17.2% of them.

party female candiates

Prior to the local elections 70.2% of Donegal Councillor seats were held by three parties, Fianna Fáil on 29.7%, Sinn Féin on 24.3% and Fine Gael on 16.2%. Post-election this increased to a combined 75.6%, with Fianna Fáil at 32.4%, Sinn Féin at 27% and Fine Gael at 16.2%.

 

For these parties to hold such a high percentage of local political representation but have low female representation raises a question over their commitment to reduce gender inequality and support women especially in rural Ireland. With continued low level of female candidates, these parties need to ask some challenging questions to actually address this situation. For example;

  • Analysing and working to remove potential barriers which may be restricting women’s participation and development within their party;
  • reforming the way candidates are selected or nominated?
  • Encouraging the men in their party to be more actively supporting women to build political careers, even if it means putting theirs on hold?
  • Encouraging more women to run and women themselves to challenge their party status quo?
  • For parties to look at implementing mandatory local election gender quota systems?

These are all questions that need to be addressed if Donegal is to ever get closer to achieving a gender balance in political representation.


Electoral Areas

The Lifford/Stranorlar electoral area was the worst for female candidate representation with no women running in this area, while Carndonagh came top with 37.5%.

table female in LE areas

A number of women who were first time candidates also came close to winning a seat in their local electoral area. Eimer Friel (FG) in the Milford area missed out on the final seat by 110 votes just behind Ian McGarvey (IND) who was running for re-election. In the Carndonagh Area Marie Duffy (FF) missed securing the final seat by 292 votes behind Bernard McGuinness (FG) who was running for re-election. And in the Letterkenny Electoral Area Mary T Sweeney (Aontú) missed securing the final seat by 266 votes behind Manus Mandy Kelly (FF).

In the electoral areas were women did win seats, Niamh Kennedy in the Donegal area received the highest first preference votes and the highest overall vote count of the 19 candidates. Marie Therese Gallagher and Noreen McGarvey in the Glenties area secured the third and fourth highest first preference votes, finishing fifth and sixth in the overall vote count of the 13 candidates. And in the Buncrana area Rena Donaghey received the second highest first preference votes of the 11 candidates.

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An Equality Issue

“How can you inspire to be what you do not see?” women and girls need to feel that there is a place for them in Irish politics with the knowledge that their gender will not be a barrier to participation. With an overwhelming majority of politicians and decision makers currently being male, how can women feel like they have a place?  Donegal needs more female political role models. Women need to be seen and heard and girls need to have role models who will inspire them to become our future politicians and representatives of our communities.

Equal representation is a basic social justice, without it how can any policy or decision making process be equal or even sustainable when half the population has no input into the structures which makes the decisions. If Ireland is a society that wants to advance and develop sustainably it therefore needs to have men and women equally at the decision-making table.

Equal representation goes to the heart of how as a society we view gender equality, the social standard we set which shows and supports the belief that we are all equal, starting with those who represent us at a political decision making level. The question is how to we achieve this balance?


Moving forward

As a society we need to become better at supporting and encouraging women to engage and not undervalue what they can and do bring to politics. Over the years through the Donegal Women’s Network work and as a member of the 5050 group we’ve heard women say they’re either not interested in getting involved or running for election because it’s not for them. With others highlighting the barriers and challenges they have faced because they are a woman which includes the 5 Cs Confidence, Childcare, Cash, Candidate Selection and Culture, as identified in the 2009 commissioned report for the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Equality and Women’s Rights.

Another challenge to address is how do we support women who may feel they do not want to belong to a political party who may like to run as an independent, because there are unique challenges faced when running as an independent. All these challenges need to be researched, understood and addressed both socially and politically.

And while politics isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, we need to acknowledge that politics does impact all our lives whether we like it or not, be it our ability to access public services, health care, even down to getting those pot holes in your road filled, the list is endless. We therefore have a vested interested to engage and follow what’s going on, as a community we should promote this. It’s particularly important women recognise the diverse knowledge and life experiences they have to offer which goes towards supporting and creating a more equal society for both men and women.

While the road to achieving better equal political representation in Donegal may seem long NCCWN Donegal Women’s Network looks forward to working on addressing these issues through our membership with the 5050 Group a voluntary national advocacy group dedicated to achieving equal representation in Irish Politics.


Coming up

On Thursday 13th June 11am-1.30pm, we will also be joining a panel of guest speakers at the

 ‘Celebrating Donegal Women and 120 years of Local Government’ event in Letterkenny Museum, co-hosted by the National Women’s Council of Ireland and Donegal County Museum, celebrating the achievements of women in Irish politic and discussing the importance of women in politics, highlighting the experiences of women who enter political life and how we can support the increase of women in politics.

To register please follow this link

Donegal Invite

 

Sweet Treats for all this Easter?

easteregg_2868022bMost of us look forward to chocolate at this time of year, however, before we all get cracking on Easter celebrations, let’s consider the global supply chain – from  cocoa farming to the Easter eggs we buy for our loved ones, and choose to enjoy chocolate which is produced fairly without exploitation of others.

Chocolate and Human trafficking

Most of the chocolate we buy is produced from cocoa grown in West Africa where farmers can earn less than $2 a day. This in turn can result in farmers resorting to child labour and slavery to keep their prices competitive in the global market. This drive to keep cocoa prices low is fuelled by multinational companies and consumer’s desire and expectation of low cost chocolate. In the West, chocolate has become a low cost everyday item, often produced at the expense of other humans.

Human Trafficking is a form of modern day slavery. It is a crime which violates human rights. Thousands of children are trafficked to harvest cocoa beans. Children as young as 5 are forced to work long hours, in dangerous conditions with no pay and no access to education. Impoverished families in Ivory Coast, West Africa can be duped by traffickers into believing their children will earn money and receive education if they work on cocoa farms, some children are abducted from neighbouring countries such as Burkina Faso and Mali- two of the poorest countries in the world. Some children will never see their families again.

What is being done to combat child labour and human trafficking in chocolate production?

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) works in partnerships with multinational companies aiming to combat the worst forms of child labour. Whilst many of the major chocolate manufactures are working towards combating trafficking and child labour in the supply chain, only a small percentage of products have a guarantee that the chocolate is fairly produced without human trafficking and child labour.

What we can do here in Donegal ?

Join the campaign to put pressure on chocolate manufacturers to guarantee all chocolate is fairly produced, and find out where in Donegal you can buy chocolate such as “Fair trade”- visit WWW.stopthetraffik.org

Human Trafficking is a crime which can take place anywhere, including areas such as Donegal, where recent arrests were made following reports of human trafficking and labour exploitation here Letterkenny.

We all have a role to play in being alert to the possibility of trafficking crimes and to report any concerns to Crimestoppers:  Tel: 1800 25 00 25, E-mail: Blueblindfold@garda.ie, www.blueblindfold.gov.ie.

The most common forms of trafficking are for: sexual exploitation and  forced labour.

Some of the barriers to potential victims of trafficking escaping :

  • Not knowing how to access help
  • Fear of retaliation by the traffickers to the victim or their family back in their home country.
  • Fear of deportation due to undocumented migrant status or passports/documents being withheld from the victims by traffickers or others.
  • No English- victims may have little or no knowledge of the local language.

Some of the signs of human trafficking- (for further info. see www.blueblindfold.gov.ie):

  • Women or men living in groups in poor conditions and working very long hours.
  • Women or men dependent on their employer for all their basic needs such as food, accommodation and transport.
  • Women or men living in the same place as they are working.

In The Long Run :- Ending human trafficking ‘one step at a time’

“In the Long run” is a Belgian based Oasis project, where a  team of runners, who have travelled over 1,000km along a major international human trafficking route, aim to  raise awareness about the issue of human trafficking, and provide information to communities about the issue of human trafficking.

The Donegal Anti Human Trafficking Group is welcoming the “In the Long Run” team to Letterkenny on 30th March 2016. Donegal YouthCouncil will be hosting an event and have invited the “In the Long Run” team to highlight the human trafficking issue.

 For more information see: ‘Donegal Anti-Human Trafficking Group’ on Facebook and ‘In The Long Run‘.

This feature was written by Catherine Brown as part of our Women’s Lives series to raise awareness to the local and global crime that is human trafficking. 

Where do Donegal 2016 General Election candidate’s stand on equal representation in Irish Politics

Oireachtas-women-1918-2008

 

NCCWN Donegal Women’s Network as a member of the 5050 Group North West carried out a questionnaire survey in order to collected general election candidates views on equal representation in politics, we received 15 responses with 11 full responses. Please click on a candidates picture to read their response:

Donegal Candidates who responded to the 5050 North West questionnaire

Thomas Pringle Pearse Doherty Paula Flanagan Pat Cope Padraig MacLochlainn Cordelia Nic Fhearraigh Frank McBrearty Jr Gary Doherty

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Michael Mooney

 

Donegal Candidates who confirmed their support for 5050 and/or equal representation

Paddy Harte

Paddy Harte, Fine Gael; stated “Once elected, I will do my best to support your cause”

Niamh Kennedy

Niamh Kennedy, Independent; stated “of course she supports equal representation”

 

 

 

 

 

Sligo-Leitrim Candidates who responded to the 5050 North West questionnaire

Chris MacManus Marie Casserly

 

 

 

 

Sligo-Leitrim Candidates who confirmed their support for 5050 and/or equal representation

Susan OKeeffe

Susan O’Keeffe, Labour; stated “as a founder of 5050 North West of course she supports the group and women equal” representation.

Bernard Sweeney

Bernard Sweeney, Independent; stated “he supports 5050 and has written about this issue on his website”

Happy Nollaig na mBán

This blog first featured in the Women’s Lives section of the Donegal Democrat in January 2015, By Samantha O’R

While waiting to be served in a shop I overheard two young women talking about how they had survived Christmas.

One woman had a young child in a buggy. He was smiling and happy with the attention being given to him by his mother and her friend.

In the discussions about managing over Christmas, I heard that both women spent Christmas at their mothers’, with one of the women saying “Sure where else would you go.”

This statement got me thinking. I was immediately struck by the thought /feeling/question: do mothers in particular get put upon at Christmas time without being asked?

Is there an assumption that mothers will automatically accept all-comers without prior arrangements or request. I know it is the season of goodwill and giving hospitality to visitors and family is a noble thing/gesture to do. But somehow the expectation is there; food, drink, accommodation, presents, babysitting, etc.

Perhaps young women would consider asking their mothers before Christmas “would it be okay to spend Christmas with them” as a courtesy and a consideration rather than as a given.

Little Christmas exemplifies the need for all women to get together for their own celebration after the sometimes burden and mayhem of big Christmas.

In celebration of the feast of the Epiphany in Ireland, January 6th is marked by Nollaig na mBan or Women’s Little Christmas. It is the tradition in Ireland that on this day for the women to get together and enjoy their own Christmas, while the men folk stay at home and handle all the chores. It is also common for children to buy their mothers and grandmothers presents on this day, though this custom is gradually being overtaken by Mother’s Day.

Although Nollaig na mBan is slowly dying out in many parts of Ireland, in Co. Cork, the tradition is still very strong. Many bars and restaurants in Cork City report a near 100% female clientele on this day, as the Corkonian women meet up with girl friends, sisters, aunts and mothers to celebrate their own little Christmas with Nollaig na mBan.

In Sligo, women got together in Osta Café and Wine Bar for the celebration and proceeds from fundraising on the night donated to Domestic Violence Service Sligo. Women in Ballyshannon also took the opportunity to mark this occasion and leave the menfolk at home.

In Donegal Town, Anne Leonard, who is part of the Walking Women of Donegal and The Mountcharles Heritage Group decided ‘to the take the bull by the horns’ this year and organise one.

“It was only last year when the Walking Women’s group first heard about it and agreed we must do something for 2014,” she said.

“So when nothing was happening I decided to get the ball rolling. I texted women I knew ‘I’m going if anyone wants to join me, let me know’.”

Over 35 women attended a sit down meal in the Abbey Hotel. A raffle was also organised and the €220 raised has been donated to Childline.

Little Christmas Donegal Town

Some of the Ladies who attended the Women’s Little Christmas Donegal Event in 2015

Eileen McGonigle said: “It was great fun and great to connect with women you hadn’t met for a long time as well as getting to know others better.” So good was the night that the Abbey Hotel already has a booking for 6th January 2015. Anne said: “It was a marvellous night, we had women travel from Ballyshannon and Glencolmcille. I hope we will have more women to celebrate with us next year.”

What a lovely way to start the year celebrating with other women and appreciating each other’s company.

We know that Christmas can be a stressful time but perhaps mothers at Christmas need a little bit of consideration before everyone descends on the home with a view that everything will be done and an attitude of “Sure where else would you go”. Alternatives on a postcard please!