SHE Speaks about #GE2020

Who doesn’t love an election! Even though the focus of SHE is firmly on the local elections, we are keenly watching the build up to this general election. Adrian Kavanagh of Maynooth University, who is fast becoming a national treasure among election aficionados tells us that we currently have 531 officially selected/declared General Election 2020 candidates (details at https://adriankavanaghelections.org as the picture changes and as Adrian points out elsewhere, independents can be hard to account for). And in somewhat encouraging news for SHE, 162 of them are women (30.5%). If even 1/4 of them are successful then the representation of men and women in Dáil Éireann would take another important step forward towards parity. However it is unlikely that those extra women will be representing rural constituencies. In Dublin, the percentage of women candidates is higher but in rural Ireland the picture is less than delightful.

SHE was established as a rural initiative to address the disparity between urban and rural constituencies in local government. Our pilot programme covers the Midlands and the North West. For example, in the six constituencies covering the counties of Cavan/Monaghan, Donegal, Sligo/Leitrim, Roscommon/Galway, Longford/Westmeath and Laois/Offaly there are currently 83 candidates officially selected/declared for the 2020 general election. 24 of these are women, and as 29% of the all candidates, it is  half of the statistics for Dublin Central. In Donegal where 12 candidates are running – just one woman is among them.

Women considering a career in politics face a variety of impediments that are not as acute for men. Chief among these are socio-cultural attitudes that see child rearing and caring work as significantly more their responsibility than for their male colleagues. Institutional norms such as long days based in Dáil Éireann make balancing work and family impossible, and the further away from Dublin the family are based, the harder this becomes. The fall out from the failure of successive governments to seriously consider what must change to make being a TD a reality for women from rural Ireland means that excellent women candidates do not put themselves forward for election. In the Midlands and North West two Fine Gael women have spoken about their decisions not to run. Senator Maura Hopkins who was selected to run in Roscommon Galway reversed her decision saying that as a new mother in a rural constituency, being a TD would make it impossible to balance the responsibilities and demands of her personal and professional lives. Likewise, Cllr Sinéad Maguire of Sligo County Council opted out due to the demands of the job potentially having a significant impact on her young children.

We at SHE call on political parties to engage with us at two levels. Firstly, to support our initiative of having more women elected to county councils as it means there are more experienced women available to contest general elections in rural constituencies. Secondly, to be genuine about pushing for change within the institutions of national government for it to be a realistic workplace for all women and men as they attempt to maintain a career without adversely affecting family life.

SHE can be contacted on 0860320455, or via our website https://www.seeherelected.ie/ You can also contact us via this facebook page www.facebook.com/seeherelected or on twitter @seeherelected