Department of Education gender quotas for Education and Training Board appointments have forced a Donegal county councillor to take a position on the board.
Sinn Féin Cllr. Marie Therese Gallagher (pictured) said her party had made nominations based on the best person for the job when those decisions were made six months ago. Sinn Féin had nominated councillors Albert Doherty, John Sheamais Ó Fearraigh and Gary Doherty to the ETB.
However, department quotas require that where council panels of female candidates include five members or less, all members on that panel will be elected to the ETB. Donegal County Council has just three women among its 37 members.
The goal of the quotas is to ensure that at least 40 per cent of members elected will be women and at least 40 per cent will be men.
Fianna Fáil Cllr. Rena Donaghey and independent Cllr. Niamh Kennedy had been among the 12 ETB members the council appoints. The remaining nine council appointments were men. Some weeks ago the department notified the ETB that the council’s appointments did not meet their statutory obligations.
Cllr. Gallagher, a member of the Glenties Municipal District, already chairs the council’s community, development and enterprise strategic policy committee and is a member of the council’s Corporate Policy Group, as well as a member of the Local Community Development Committee, the Peace III Partnership, the Economic Development Committee and the council’s strategic policy committee for planning.
At a special meeting held on Monday to address the ETB issue, Cllr. Gallagher took issue with the requirement that she had to serve on the ETB, given her other responsibilities. “In my opinion, I think it’s wrong,” she said, adding that she was speaking in a personal capacity.
Cllr. Gallagher said she has always tried to encourage women to enter politics.
“But I think we encourage women and encourage individuals to do what they’re interested in and serve the people to the best of their ability,” she said. Cllr. Gallagher said she thought the quotas did not “take into consideration the realities of people’s responsibilities on the ground”.
Cllr Gallagher said she wanted to hear whether the other parties thought the council should tackle the issue or go along with department requirements, but no councillor from any other grouping spoke during the brief session.
Sinn Féin Cllr. Mick Quinn said he agreed with Cllr. Gallagher. “We’ve talked of the huge amount of work put in trying to encourage women,” he said. “This is absolute madness. This is actually bullying.”
Cllr. Ó Fearraigh stepped aside to make way for Cllr. Gallagher’s nomination and appointment to the ETB.