Irish non-profit Women for Election, which trains and encourages women to run for election in Ireland, welcomes the Minister of State John Paul Phelan’s recent announcement that the government will incentivise political parties who have at least 30% female candidates in next year’s local elections. This incentive will be granting parties additional funding for a diversity/equality officer if they reach a 30% threshold.

The local elections take place in May 2019 and could be a game-changer in terms of gender balance in Irish politics. “We are seeing a global trend,” says Women for Election CEO Ciairín be Buis. “Every day a new headline in the States talks about ‘The Year of the Woman’ with a record-breaking amount of women winning candidate nomination races for the upcoming midterm elections there. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s race in New York is one such example. In Ireland, we’re still waiting to see how many women will run next year but if we look at past local elections it’s actually a positive trend. 2014 saw 21% female councillors up and down the country elected. In 2009 it was 16%. Rewarding parties who help 2019’s results return better gender balance is a good place to start.”

Quotas already operate at a national level and were first employed at the 2016 General Election. Parties can lose State funding if they don’t reach a minimum threshold of female canidates. At the moment at least 30% of a party’s candidates in general elections must be women. This will rise to 40% in 2023. At the moment 22.2% of TDs at the moment are women – which is a historic high.

“Quotas are a divisive tool for pushing gender equality, but they work,” de Buis points out. “Mexico’s recent election resulted in a 48% female incoming Congress. They introduced quotas in 1996.”

According to reports, the government is not planning to apply gender quotas for next year’s local elections. Women for Election would like to see this issue revisited in the near future and be part of the conversation on drafting the necessary legislation, but in the meantime Women for Election aims to work on encouraging more and more women to run in upcoming elections. Women for Election has training dates planned for Dublin on September 22nd, which is nearly fully booked, and Galway on October 20th.

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