Women in Politics
The statistics from the European Commission database , regarding women’s participation in national politics across all Member States shows that with a female participation rate of only 15 per cent following the General Election in 2011, Ireland ranks 24th of the 28 Member States in terms of women’s participation in the lower house of the national parliament. This is well below the EU average of 28 per cent.
Only 6 Member States have reached or are close to reaching the threshold of 40 per cent of each gender (Sweden, Finland, Spain, Belgium, The Netherlands and Denmark).
Statistics for female representation among senior Ministers shows that on average, women account for 27 per cent of senior government ministers across the EU and in Ireland. In five Member States (Sweden, France, Finland, Denmark and Austria) governments include at least 40 per cent of each gender, and in four others, the percentage is close to 40 per cent (Bulgaria, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany). However, in six EU governments less than one in ten ministers are women (Greece, Slovakia, Lithuania, Czech Republic, Estonia and Cyprus).
The average percentage of female ministers in the EU-28 countries has slowly risen from 21 per cent to 27 per cent over the last decade; while in Ireland, the figure has increased just over 13 per cent in 2011 to 27 per cent in 2014.
Increasing women’s representation in politics has been a key target of the Government. New legislation enacted in 2012 will require political parties to ensure that at least 30 per cent of their candidates at the next general election are women. This candidate quota will rise to 40 per cent seven years later. The legislation includes financial penalties and failure to reach these targets for the number of female candidates offered to the electorate will lead to a reduction in State funded support to the political parties.
Furthermore three of the Irish Supreme Court Judges are women; bring women’s representation in the Supreme Court to 30 per cent. It is also noteworthy that in the legal profession, the Chief Justice, Attorney General and Director of Public Prosecutions and Head of the Forensic Science Service are all women, as is the Commissioner of An Garda Síochána.
The Oireachtas used its cross-Party Committee structure to explore the reasons for poor female membership in the Irish Parliament in 2009 and 2010 and published two reports which identified the barriers and made recommendations to overcome them.
Former Green Party Minister for Equality, Ms. Mary White, opened a constructive dialogue on women’s representation in Irish politics with the political parties during 2010. Current Minister of State for Equality, Ms. Kathleen Lynch T.D. has built upon this work, including, the organising of a Conference "How To Elect More Women" in January 2012.