Fifteen people make up the new cabinet which is the apex of government power in Ireland. They head up the Departments of State and will set the policy parameters and priorities that will affect us all for the foreseeable future. Eleven of them are men. Just four are women. In this #SHEspeaks, we examine if looking at how they got there tells us anything about how more women can be supported into political life.
Our #SHESchool participants asked for clear and unbiased information about public policy. We are starting with the unexpected star of the general election debates: Pensions. We explain why there is a debate about increasing the age from which pensions are paid and include an analysis of what the Programme for Government has to say about it all.
Men are the ones who hold most of the positions of power in our society. In this crisis, it is usually men who are making all the important decisions which affect the everyday lives of citizens. This imbalance of decision-making power means that women are left out from shaping the decisions that affect their own lives.(EIGE, 2020).To make sure that women are part of decision-making about matters that affect their lives, SHE calls for gender quotas for the 2024 local elections to be part of the Programme for Government.
SHE looks at how the gendered nature of political institutions creates inequality in political representation. Even though formal political institutions allow equal participation, it is the entrenched informal institutions (the norms and conventions) that create unequal outcomes. SHE calls on political parties to get real about enabling equality in political representation and points out recent missed opportunities to do just that. #SHESpeaks
SHE has been having a look at the vacancies left in County and City Councils after the 2020 general election. Of the 48 brand new TDs who entered Leinster House, 32 of them left a vacant seat behind them in their county or city council. Seeing how councils act as a strong pipeline for advancement to the Dáil, it is encouraging to note that more vacant council seats were allocated to women than to men.
When we walk into the polling station on Saturday 8th February we will come face to face with our electoral system in all its glory. Known formally as proportional representation by way of a single transferable vote (or PR-STV for short), it is a sophisticated system that aims to match the seats available to the preference of voters. It gives us choice between political parties, and because there is more than one seat in each constituency we also have choice between candidates from the same party, and we can even disregard parties altogether. This often leads to a long list of candidates on a ballot paper and we are required to rank them in order of preference. In this She Speaks post, we look at mechanisms of how PR-STV actually works, and wonder should we vote the whole way down the paper.
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.