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Where are the Irish Women Candidates?

21 Feb, 2011

A shocking 15% of candidates in the 2011 Irish General Election will be women; 2% down on the last election in 2007.

This is despite considerable debate in Ireland about the need to improve the representation of women in politics, and some anxiety about the falling number of women participating in mainstream politics. In 1997 20% of candidates were female, and although there are 3 more women standing in 2011 than in 2007, this is only because three independent women registered themselves at the last minute in the constituency of Clare in a bid to stop the ballot paper being all-male.

In terms of women candidates, the parties line up as follows:

Party

Number of Candidates

Number of Women Candidates

% Women Candidates

Labour

68

17

25.0%

Sinn Fein

41

8

19.5%

Green

43

8

18.6%

Fine Gael

104

17

16.3%

Fianna Fail

75

11

14.7%

Other (including United Left Alliance)

235

25

10.6%

Totals

566

86

15.2%

 

The last Dail contained 23 women – out of 163 members. Five of these women are not seeking re-election, including Mary Harney, the only woman ever to have led an Irish political party. Already there are predictions that the new Dail will contain even fewer women than before.

The Irish election is mirroring the UK in that its public face is heavily male. As reported in the Irish Examiner manifesto launches and radio and television appearances have been populated almost entirely by men, and, as in the UK, the leaders’ debates will be all-male affairs also.

Nan Sloane, CFWD’s Director, said; ‘This situation is sad, but not surprising. Recent elections in a number of countries, including Australia, have seen falls in the numbers of women candidates and MPs, and this is probably set to continue whilst there is no compelling requirement for parties to field women candidates in winnable seats.’

CFWD will be reporting on the outcome of the election in terms of gender balance.

The Irish general election will be held on Friday, 25 February 2011, and uses the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system in multi-member constituencies. See this document for a description of how the system works.