Historical perspective can help us to appreciate how far women have come in their struggle for equality, both within and outside of politics. The 1979 Local Elections prove an interesting reflection on women in public life, as it was the year that a young Mary Robinson was first elected to Dublin City Council. With this in mind, we sourced a report by John Colgan on the 1979 local elections in Leinster in order to do a neat comparison between then and now.
In 1979, out of 858 candidate names on tickets across the Leinster counties, just 90 were women (10.5%) and 23 of these women were incumbents. Only 17 female sitting councillors were re-elected and only ten of the 67 newcomers won a seat. Fine Gael put forward 35 women – the highest number of female candidates out of Fianna Fáil, The Labour Party, minority parties and Independents – 16 of these women were elected. The Labour Party put two women forward, both of whom were elected. Fianna Fáil fared worst as only five of the 25 women contesting won a seat. No Independent female candidates, or women from minority parties were elected.
In 2014, the pre-election situation has certainly improved. In Leinster to date there are approximately 644 candidates on the ticket, 181 are women (27.2%). The Labour Party, Sinn Féin, The People Before Profit Alliance, the Anti-Austerity Alliance and other left wing groups are currently fielding the most women with a collective average of 31.8%. Women make up a quarter of all Independent and Green Party candidates. Fianna Fáil has the lowest percentage of women on its ticket in Leinster at just 18.6%, while 26.9% of Fine Gael candidates are women.
Nationally, women account for 24% of the 1192 local election candidates.