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WOMEN’S LIVES: Why we need more women on our local councils

WOMEN’S LIVES: Why we need more women on our local councils
Will the local elections in May result in more women sitting in our council chamber?

Will the local elections in May result in more women sitting in our council chamber?

There are 40 candidates nominated so far for the elections to Donegal County Council in May of this year and only six are women. On the current council there are two women and 27 men.

The 5050 Group is campaigning to encourage and support more women in politics and public life. The new gender quota legislation, which will ensure more women candidates, does not take effect until the next general election.

However, the impact of the legislation is beginning to be felt. Across the country so far, almost 23% of all local election candidates are women; this compares with 17% five years ago in 2009.

We have become used to the majority of our public representatives being men. Currently men account for 84% of all our elected representatives! One imagines there would be outrage if men were as poorly represented as women throughout the country both in the Dáil and the Seanad.

The 5050 Group plan to observe the progress of the local elections as political parties and independents gear up for the campaign trail and the elections in May and we will work to encourage and support the election of women.

One certain way to improve the number of women in our council chambers is for every elector to consider all the candidates carefully and to think about the lack of equality in our political process. Just over half of the population are women; that figure should be reflected in our political system.

For many women (and men), becoming a councillor is often a stepping stone to a seat in the Dáil. It is sensible for parties to pull out all the stops to get women selected to run in the local elections with a future eye to a seat in the Dáil or Seanad

Donegal Electoral Areas

In each of the Electoral Areas we have one woman going forward for election: Niamh Kennedy, Independent (Donegal, 6 seats); Maire Therese Ó Gallachóir, Sinn Fein (Glenties, 6 seats); Grace Boyle, Fine Gael (Letterkenny, 10 seats); Charlie McDyer, People Before Profit (Stranorlar, 6 seats) and in the Inishowen area there are two women Rena Donaghey, Fianna Fail and Mary McCauley, Fianna Fail.

Neighbouring counties Sligo and Leitrim have so far at least one female candidate in each electoral area with a total of four women going forward in the Sligo area which is the highest number of female candidates in the North West area.

The National Picture

Dr. Adrian Kavanagh, Lecturer of Geography, National University of Maynooth who is providing an updated version from a series of his rolling blog posts on local election candidate selections notes 312 female candidates contested the 2009 City and County Council elections, accounting for 17.1% of the total number of candidates.

This time around, given the impending introduction of gender quotas at the next general election and given the likely impact of larger constituency units (with more seats per constituency), the expectation is that more female candidates will be contesting these elections. But will this turn out to be the case?

Currently (9th February 2014) Kavanagh has accounted for 319 female candidates officially selected (out of a total, at present, of 1,415), with female candidates currently accounting for 22.9% of the total number of candidates selected/declared.

Kavanagh also has noted that more women are being elected in urban (28.8 %) than in rural areas (18.6%).

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