For release: Monday, March 1, 2021
Minister commits to providing maternity and paternity leave for politicians at Women for Election event
Peter Burke TD, Minister of State with responsibility for Local Government and Planning, this afternoon said that he is committed to overcoming Constitutional difficulties to ensure the provision of maternity and paternity leave for politicians.
As a first and immediate step, he said that he would move to amend the Local Government Act 2001 to allow local politicians to take full paid maternity and paternity leave quickly if they choose to. At the moment, a councillor cannot miss more than six monthly meetings without having to step away from the seat.
The Minister was speaking at the launch of a new Women for Election report called More Women – Changing the Face of Politics, which found that the lack of maternity leave is one of the barriers inhibiting women’s chances of election success. He also said that he would work swiftly to progress the recommendations of the Women for Election report.
Other barriers identified in the Women for Election report include an increasing risk of sexist, racist and misogynistic on-line abuse and the lack of access to campaign financing to recognise care responsibilities. Another challenge is the resistance within party political systems to new candidates, and particularly women candidates to winnable seats.
The report is based on interviews with women who contested local, European and general elections over 2019 and 2020. While many barriers exist, however, the overwhelming message from women who have contested, won and lost local, is that women should go for it, and to run for election.
Caitríona Gleeson, the new CEO of Women for Election, welcomed the Minister’s commitment to addressing the maternity leave issue, urging him to do so sooner rather than later.
“It is great that this issue of maternity leave, which I know is Constitutionally complex, will now be addressed,” she said. “It is also quite astonishing that it is only being addressed now. It is perhaps indicative of how far behind we are in acknowledging and accommodating diversity and equality in political life.”
“Currently, when decisions are made about our lives, our homes, our communities, our businesses, the diversity and value of women’s contribution is missing,” she said. “A 50/50 gender balance in government is key to Ireland becoming a thriving vibrant society. But we have a long way to go to get there, based on current figures and current systems.”
Ireland ranks 101st in the world for the percentage of women elected in national parliament, behind countries like Afghanistan or China. Currently only one in every five TDs and 25% of elected councillors are women. Only four of 15 Ministers at the Cabinet table are women. In total, women are currently completely absent from 40% of critical government decision making tables, including health and the Covid-19 national response.
Women for Election also agreed that local representatives should be remunerated appropriately for the hours they realistically work. It also called for a reform of financing rules to facilitate allowances for candidates with care responsibilities and on political parties to recruit women from outside the party, particularly women from under represented and marginalised communities.
Finally, the organisation said that there should be better funding for groups working to support and train women to go forward for election.
The research report sets out to understand what motivates a woman to run for office, tracking the electoral experience, from party selection to the campaign trail to count day and afterwards. Written by Drs Fiona Buckley and Lisa Keenan, it is based on interviews with 15 women who contested, successfully and unsuccessfully, the 2019 local elections, 2019 European parliament elections and the 2020 general election.
Women for Election is a non-partisan, independent, not-for-profit organisation providing inspiration, training and supports for women considering election at all levels, from student to European politics.
For more information contact:
Edel Hackett – Tel: 087-2935207
Making A Mark for Women in Elections – Key Recommendations
- Introduce paid maternity leave for elected politicians.
- Legislate for gender quotas at local and Seanad elections.
- Remunerate local councillors at an appropriate level.
- Reform campaign financing rules to facilitate allowances for candidates with care responsibilities.
- Enable prosecutions for online and other forms of abuse including sexism and misogyny against women running for election.
- Review and expand candidate recruitment processes to engage women from outside parties particularly those from migrant and marginalised communities.