Tag Archive | politics

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.

Who Speaks for Me?

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Women of Donegal do you feel Represented? Are Women Fairly Represented in Politics?

 

NCCWN-Donegal Women’s Network wants to hear from you. On Wednesday 9th October 11am-2pm we are hosting an event in the Regional Cultural Centre, Letterkenny, where we will look at these very questions.

 

We believe it’s important women from all diverse backgrounds, cultures and life experiences feel and have their voices heard. We are therefore organising this event as part of Social Inclusion Week, an opportunity to hear from women and learn how they feel their voices, values and experiences are heard.

 

This is an open event so please feel free to just come along, listen, learn and help us see what action/s we can take collectively to gain a real sense of solidarity for women.

A light lunch will be served and we would love for you to come join us.

 


For more info contact NCCWN Donegal Women’s Network on
074 97 22790 or email donegalwomensnetwork@gmail.com

This is a 50 50 Group North West/ SHE – See Her Elected Project event supported by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government.

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.

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