PROMINENT Cork political figures are disappointed but unsurprised by a recent report that if every female TD ever elected was to be placed in the current Dáil, there would still be 28 vacant seats.
Margaret Murphy O’Mahony, the former Cork TD who served in the last Dáil, said she is most disappointed by the findings.
“Seeing it in black and white really brings it home how much work still has to be done to increase female representation in the Dáil,” Ms Murphy O’Mahony said. “My hope would be that the representation would be 50/50 going forward.”
Ms Murphy O’Mahony made history in 2016, when she was elected the first female TD for the Cork South West constituency. She is sad it took so long for this breakthrough.
“It took 32 Dáil elections for a female TD from my constituency to be elected,” Ms Murphy O’Mahony said. “I was also the only female TD from Cork in that Dáil, which, in itself, highlights that there is a problem. I think society’s mindset needs to change from thinking the female is the main homemaker.
"We also need to encourage young females in youth wings of political parties to take their political interests further. I am not a fan of the female quota system, however, as I think the best person should be picked, regardless of their gender.”
The current lone female incumbent in Cork is Social Democrats TD, Holly Cairns, who said she is not surprised by the recent findings.
“There are 18 TDs representing Cork City and county in Dáil Éireann and I am the only woman.
“Limerick, Tipperary, and Donegal have no female representation whatsoever in the 33rd Dáil. This is really shocking, but it’s not surprising.”
Ms Cairns highlighted a huge obstacle to the number of female representatives.
“There are zero maternity provisions in place for councillors, TDs, or senators,” Ms Cairns said.
“This is a glaringly obvious barrier to increasing female participation in politics. It is embarrassing that it hasn’t been rectified.
“I have been working with the Bills Office in Leinster House to try and get this fixed as soon as possible. Better representation leads to better decision-making. We need a gender balance in Irish politics,” she said.
In a statement released to The Echo, Fianna Fáil said they are committed to improving their number of female politicians.
“Fianna Fáil has a long history of supporting equality policies and in supporting the active participation of women in decision-making. In 2015, The Markievicz Commission was established by Taoiseach Micheál Martin to examine how Fianna Fáil can ensure greater female participation in politics.
“The report outlined how we will increase female participation in politics and reach the statutory requirement of 30% of the party’s candidates being female in the next general election. Fianna Fáil also ran the highest number of female candidates of any political party in the 2020 general election.”
Labour Party general secretary, Billie Sparks, said her party has also set a target.
“Our party is very focused on electing more women at every democratic level. We have a target of at least 40% of our candidates being women,” Ms Sparks said.
“We had no female TD elected in the last general election, so we ensured that four out of our five senators elected were women."