Imagine if there were 19 women and two men on Longford County Council.
Surely there would be uproar and rightly so. It would be unequal, it would be unfair and it simply wouldn’t make sense. Yet, the reverse is the case and always has been. Longford is no different from councils where men consistently account for 84% of elected representatives and it looks like this trend is set to continue for another five years. So far, of the 35 candidates selected/declared, there are just eight women.
Fine Gael have selected 12 candidates and three are women: incumbents Peggy Nolan and Maura Kilbride-Harkin with newcomer, Yvonne Ní Mhurchú. Sinn Féin, the smallest party, has a majority of women among their three candidates: Barbara Smyth and Edel Kelly. Among the 10 Independent candidates, three are women: incumbent Mae Sexton along with Mary Lillis and Niamh Moran.
What is most disappointing and quite shocking is that Fianna Fáil has selected 10 men and not one woman. Yet, Micheál Martin, in his party’s Gender Equality Action Plan, which references LWL’s Manifesto Group, committed to ‘renew Irish politics and make it more representative’.
Some good news on the national front is that more women are running now than in 2009. So far women account for almost 23% of candidates and they are mainly representing the smaller parties. However, they are mostly located in urban constituencies. It is important to note that female membership of the two main parties, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil is between 35% and 40% so the women are there. Yet this is not reflected when it comes to candidate selection. Something is wrong here and it is widely recognised that selection procedures are a major obstacle inhibiting women’s entry into politics.
As Longford Women’s Manifesto member, and Chair of LWL, Stephanie Igoe commented:
“Political parties need to seriously address, particularly in rural areas, the factors which inhibit women getting selected. Traditional attitudes and stereotyping as regards women’s and men’s roles play a key role and this culture of ‘an old boys network’ needs to be challenged more openly by the leadership in all political parties and especially in rural areas.”
It is very positive that we have 5 new women running for the first time along with the three incumbents and we do hope this will result in increased gender balance on the Council. Councils make important decisions that affect all of our lives, women’s and men’s. Women bring different perspectives and experience to the table and therefore it would make for better decision-making and the Council would reflect ALL of the people of Longford not just one half. If you consider that there is no difference between the ability of the male and female candidates presented for election to represent the issues facing your community, why not consider voting for a woman this time and play a part in improving the balance of representation in your area.
The twelve local election candidates running in the Longford Electoral Area have been invited to speak at a public event on Thursday 8 May at Longford Women’s Link. Johnny Fallon, political commentator, will chair the two hour meeting which will start at 11am. This will provide a great opportunity for the public to ask questions of their candidates.