Lack of maternity leave for elected councillors is ‘undignified’

Lack of maternity leave for elected councillors is ‘undignified’
Cllr Fiona Ryan said she will have to consider her involvement in local politics if she decides she wants children in the future, due to the lack of support for female representatives. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

A city councillor in Cork has said requesting special permission for leave to look after a baby is “not a dignified situation” for women in local politics.

Councillors elected to local authorities are currently not entitled to paid maternity leave and are barred if they do not take their seat for more than six months.

Under the Local Government Act 2001, a public representative absent from their post for more than six months is deemed to have resigned.

Solidarity Councillor Fiona Ryan, who is seeking re-election in the city north west ward, said she will have to consider her involvement in local politics if she decides she wants children in the future, due to the lack of support for female representatives.

Ms Ryan said it is already difficult enough for young politicians due to the low pay of €17,060 gross per annum plus expenses and monthly allowances.

“As a renter, a young person and a woman I understand the extreme difficulties that the current formation of the council represents,” she said.

“The cost of rents has made it untenable for some young councillors across Ireland who are being forced to step down.

“I turned 30 this year and I am hoping I will still be in a position in a job but nobody really knows with the boundary extension. I am going to have to consider, do I want children? I will have no maternity leave if it is the case.

“I would have no support in that scenario. It’s something I will have to think about if I run again, the lack of supports for councillors, not just economic but lack of childcare and maternity leave and having to seek permission specifically from the council - like what happened to a colleague in Cork County Council.

“This is not a dignified situation for women in politics, particularly at a local level because it does represent a barrier for women in politics,” she added.

The issue of maternity leave for councillors was raised by county councillor Danielle Twomey in 2017, who revealed she had to return to work four weeks after having one of her children.

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