As I write this week’s column, we are now coming close to the deadline (May 3rd) for hopeful candidates in the local elections to have submitted their nominations to Donegal County Council.
Once this deadline is over, NCCWN - Donegal Women’s Network will be sending an ‘Open Invitation’ to all 2014 local election candidates to respond to questions that have been identified as areas of concern by voters in Donegal.
All candidates running have been invited to respond and to pledge to undertake specific actions if they are successful and elected onto Donegal County Council.
All responses, or non-responses, will be published on the Donegal Democrat’s specifically designed web page ‘BE INFORMED….. about your 2014 Local Candidates.’ This we believe will give the electorate an insight into each candidate as well as giving the candidates an open forum which could be helpful in securing votes.
The questions cover a number of topics ranging from childcare to women’s political representation. In the next couple of weeks our readers will receive a weekly overview of the candidates’ responses as well as the link to the Donegal Democrat’s web page and that of NCCWN- Donegal Women’s Networks.
To date we have 77 candidates and sadly, only 11 female nominations in the county. In Donegal, to date, the declared female candidates are: Rena Donaghey FF, Mary McCauley FF, Claudia Kennedy FF, Grace Boyle FG, Siobhan Mc Laughlin Labour, Marie Therese O Gallachoir SF, Niamh Kennedy Ind, Bernie Mulhern Ind, Patricia McCafferty Ind, Charlie McDyer People Before Profit and Eilish Haden Direct Democracy Ireland.
This lack of female representation is being acknowledged by many men and women on the doorsteps in Donegal, with more women in the county council seen as advantageous to a more effective running council. One voter said, “Women are very practical and work more from a collective perspective as opposed to taking ‘territorial and confrontational’ stances.”
Taking a broad sweep of female representation across the North West the following clearly indicates little has changed to encourage and support the participation of female candidates despite the fact that the female membership of our two largest parties, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael is between 35% and 40%.
In Donegal Fine Gael have one woman running and 13 men; in Sligo - 10 men and one woman; in Leitrim - two women and nine men.
Fianna Fáil is no better. In Donegal: 15 men and three women; In Sligo: one woman and eight men; in Leirim the situation is a little better with 9 men and 3 women. Yet, Michael Martin, in Fianna Fáil’s Gender Equality Action Plan, committed to ‘renew Irish politics and make it more representative’. In the Irish Times (2/4/14) Senator Averil Power bravely criticised her own party’s failure to take serious action to Nationally there has been an increase of female participation for this local election with an increase of 6% (from 17% to 23%.) All parties except FF have shown an increase, FG – up by 5%, Labour – up by 7%, SF up by9 % with the highest selection of female candidates within Anti Austerity Alliance at 33.3% and People Before Profit at 40%.
Under new legislation which comes into effect for the next general election, political parties will be obliged to implement an electoral ‘gender’ quota or suffer severe financial penalties. Each party will have to have at least 30% women on the ballot paper. Fine Gael for example last year under Electoral Acts received 2.8m euro and therefore stands to lose up to 1.4m euro.
I wonder will the threat of financial penalty help to focus the minds of the men in power? Watch this space!