A FEMALE county councillor has criticised the “wishy-washy” response she has received from the office of Local Government Minister Eoghan Murphy in relation to the non-provision of maternity leave for female representatives.
Officials from the Minister’s department have confirmed that they will review existing supports available to councillors taking maternity leave but said councillors and TDs were currently not entitled to such leave as they are office holders and not employees and changing this could raise a constitutional issue that would force the Government to pay remuneration during the absence.
East Cork representative Danielle Twomey (SF) told fellow councillors that in September she had to cut breastfeeding short after welcoming a new baby early in 2017 and returned to work four weeks after giving birth.
Ms Twomey is a full-time councillor and her partner works full-time.
“I welcome that [the Department] has said that under the National Strategy for Women and Girls 2017-2020 they have made commitments to review existing supports but I wait with bated breath as to what they will be,” said Ms Twomey.
“Maternity leave should not be a benefit based on your occupational status, it should be a right as a woman, whether employed, self-employed or an office holder. Until we level the playing field, we will never have more women in politics,” Ms Twomey added.
Under the Local Government Act. public representatives absent from their post due to illness for more than six months are deemed resigned unless the council concerned passes a resolution to extend the absence up to 18 months. Absentee councillors are entitled to receive their €16,645 salary for the six-month period and receive 50% after that period.
However, this does not account for cases of maternity leave as councillors are not regarded as employees of the local authority council they sit on.