Female commissioners call for gender equality in new Commission

The Education Commissioner urged President Jean-Claude Juncker to appoint at least 10 women in his future new team. Currently, 9 out of 28 commissioners are women.

“We are now in the course of drafting a letter to be signed by all female commissioners addressed to the President Jean-Claude Juncker asking him to appoint at least 10 women in the next Commission I think this will be great for the new Commission.” said EU Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth Androulla Vassiliou.

In an attempt to persuade national governments, Juncker promised to reward countries who appoint female candidates with a big portfolio or vice-presidency.

“The female Commissioners are very worried that the next Commission may not have sufficient number of women.” Vassiliou added.

President-Juncker will start discussions with governments on future commissioners and the distribution of portfolios.

Italy’s Foreign Minister Frederica Mogherini will replace Catherine Ashton as the EU’s head of foreign affairs while Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk will be the new president of the European Council.

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Presence of Women Increases in Cabinet

The recent Cabinet reshuffle saw the representation of women increase by one. There were three women at the Cabinet table before the reshuffle – Frances Fitzgerald (FG, Minister for Justice and Equality), Joan Burton (Lab, Minister for Social Protection ) and Jan O Sullivan (Lab -Super Junior Minister for Housing). The number has been increased with the appointment of Heather Humphreys (FG) to the Ministry of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. Jan O Sullivan now moves to Education with Joan Burton remaining in Social Protection. It is a small increase but at least it is in the right direction. 5050 by 2020 edges closer and closer….

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Support for Women’s Networks

Our National Chair Noirin Clancy recently contacted the Minister for the Department of the Environment. She writes as follows:

On behalf of the 50:50 Group, we wish to raise our serious concerns regarding the withdrawal of funding to the Women’s Networks.

As part of our 50:50 campaign for equal representation in Irish politics, we work closely with several networks.  In the recent Local Elections, many played a significant role in supporting women candidates and in raising awareness of the importance of addressing the gender imbalance in politics.  Seminars were organised and attended by women who subsequently ran as candidates and succeeded in getting elected. Without the presence of Women’s Networks at local level, who have the capacity to mobilise and organise, such events would not have happened.

The Government has played a key leadership role in passing gender quota legislation. However, to ensure implementation additional supports are necessary to encourage women to go into politics and to challenge the structural and cultural barriers.  As illustrated above, Women’s Networks are ideally placed to provide such supports and we believe their work certainly contributed to the 5% increase in the number of female councillors elected.

In the proposed new programme (SICAP) it is of serious concern that women are not named as a target group.  Furthermore, the National Collective of Community Based Women’s Networks is not permitted to tender for the contract to ensure continuation of the vital services delivered by the 17 Networks.

While significant gains have been made with regard to gender equality in Ireland, we still have a long way to go to achieve de facto gender equality. The Government committed to implementing the National Women’s Strategy (2007-16) which aims to bring about ‘an Ireland where all women enjoy equality equally with men and can achieve their full potential while enjoying a safe and fulfilling life’.   Women’s Networks can continue to play a significant role in working with Government, and national organisations like our own, to realise this vision.

We urge you, Minister, to keep the current national programme in place and ring fence the €1.3m for the 17 Women’s Networks. If the Programme is discontinued it will represent a serious setback for the advancement of women’s rights in Ireland and call into question the Government’s commitments, at national and international levels, in this regard.



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First Woman Leader of the Irish Labour Party

Congratulations to Joan Burton who was elected the first woman leader of the Irish Labour Party last Friday 4th July 2014. It is the first time in its 102 year history that the Irish Labour Party has a female leader. She has now been confirmed as Tanaiste although she is not the first woman to hold that office. Mary Harney (Progressive Democrats) holds that honour. Mary Coughlan (Fianna Fail) has also held the post.

It is encouraging that these small steps are moving the country towards a more gendered balanced political system. However with the nearly all male banking enquiry we do have some way to go……..

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Chelsea Clinton Gives Good Advice

Chelsea Clinton was in Dublin yesterday and gave some good advice on how to handle criticism. She also talked about her experience of being included as a child to develop her ideas and opinions. Read it here

Chelsea Clinton’s Advice

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Irish Examiner Article

Adrian Kavanagh, Fiona Buckley, Claire McGing and Noirin Clancy keep track of how women fared in the 2014 Local Elections. Read on


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Mixed Picture for Women in Local Elections 2014

To those that have been elected – Congratulations. To those who were not elected – sincerest sympathies but very well done for having the courage to put yourself forward.

The results are all now in and the presence of women in electoral politics has worsened in Cork City with the number going from 6 down to 5.

In Cork County there are now 13 women out of a total of 55 councillors. This is an improvement to just under 24%.

Blarney-Macroom and Cork City North East have the dubious honour of not returning any women candidates. Ballincollig – Carrigaline achieved the highest percentage of women candidates returned at 30%.

The presence of women at the decision making table is crucial. As half of the population women should be half of the representation – equal to men. Within political parties it is important that women see themselves as potential candidates and it is crucial that the party leadership understand the importance of gender balance on the party ticket. The 5050 group will continue to press for the greater presence of women in electoral politics.

Dr Theresa Reidy (UCC) has summarised the outcome in the rest of the country

Women Win the Day
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Women Candidates gather at Sligo County Council Offices

Will the local elections on 23rd May result in a better gender balance on Sligo County Council?  Currently, 19 men and 6 women have been serving on the Council for the past five years so there is much room for improvement in order to reach a better gender balance.

At a national level just 17% of seats in local government are occupied by women. This election sees a total of 2040 candidates contesting council seats, 1599 (78.4%) men and 441 (21.6%) women. While men continue to dominate the political arena, there is some increase in the figures in comparison to five years ago when 314 (17.2%) of the total number of candidates were women.

In Sligo between the two electoral areas nine  women are running as candidates – seven in the Sligo electoral area and two in the Ballymote/Tubbercurry area.  Four incumbents are standing again – Marcella McGarry (Labour),  Rosaleen O’Grady (Fianna Fail) and Independents, Margaret Gormley and Veronica Cawley.  Newcomers to the field are:  Sinead Maguire (Fine Gael) and four Independents Marie Casserly, Patricia Gardiner, Martina Butler and Mary Tuffy.

“One certain way to improve the number of women in Sligo County Council is for every voter to consider all the candidates carefully and to think about the lack of equality in our political process. Just over 50% of the population are women; that figure should be echoed in our political system, said Nóirin Clancy of 5050 North West.

Back row:  Patricia Gardiner (IND), Veronica Cawley (IND), Martina Butler (IND), Marcella McGarry (LAB), Sinead Maguire (FG) and Marie Casserley (IND); all from Sligo electoral area (only one missing is Rosaleen o’Grady FF)
in front:  Mary Tuffy (IND) and Margatet Gormley (IND) for Ballymote/Tubercurry electoral area
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Statement from The 5050 Group

 The 5050 Group welcomes the overall increase in the number of women candidates contesting this Friday’s local elections.  However, there is plenty room for improvement if parties are to meet their gender quota obligations at the next general election.

This election sees a total of 2040 candidates contesting council seats across the country, 1599 (78.4%) men and 441 (21.6%) women. While the number of women candidates is much less than that of men, there are, in fact, more women contesting these elections in comparison to five years ago when 314 (17.2%) of the total number of candidates were women.

One of the main reasons to account for the increase in women candidates is the Electoral (Amendment) (Political Funding) Act, 2012.  This Act specifies that at the next Dáil election, at least 30% of party candidates must be women.  If not, parties will lose 50% of the funding they receive from the State to run their operations. While the law is not applicable at local elections, many of the political parties have sensibly used these elections to recruit and run women candidates. This indicates that the gender quota legislation is already having a positive effect on female candidacy in Ireland but some parties need to do a lot more if they are to meet their obligations under this Act” said Noirín Clancy, National Chairperson of the 5050 Group.

In this election, left and centre-left parties are running the highest proportion of women candidates and the majority of women candidates are based in urban constituencies.  People Before Profit, the Anti-Austerity Alliance, Sinn Féin and the Green Party have all selected over 30% women candidates to contest these elections.  The Labour Party’s candidates consist of 29.1% women.  However, neither Fine Gael nor Fianna Fáil have reached their own gender targets for these elections. Fine Gael has 22.8% women candidates while Fianna Fáil has only 17.1% women candidates.  This is despite the fact that female membership within those parties is quite high at 41% and 34% respectively.

Such lack of progress could cost these parties in the next general election when gender quota legislation will be implemented for the first time.  This means that parties who don’t select 30% women candidates will lose half of their State funding.  According to research by Fiona Buckley, lecturer in gender politics in UCC, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil could lose in the region of between €700,000 and €1,000,000 on an annual basis in terms of State funding is they fail to meet the gender quota at the next general election.

The overall increase in the number of women candidates in these elections will likely see an increase in the number of women councillors elected.  In Irish elections it is the case that when more women appear on the ballot paper, then more women get elected.  This may prove significant for the election of more women to Dáil Éireann in future years as becoming a councillor is considered a stepping stone for politicians seeking a seat in Dáil Éireann.  Research shows that this is particularly true in the case of women.  “An increase in the number of women in our local councils and in Dáil Éireann will make inroads into bringing about a more representative democracy in Ireland” said Noirín Clancy.



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Breakfast Meeting of Women Candidates in Cork.

There was a terrific buzz in the City Hall on Friday 2nd May. Minister Kathleen Lynch (Lab) talked of the need for women to have courage when it came to making the changes necessary to increase the number of women elected to Local Councils and eventually to the Dail. She warned that international experience showed that progress would be slow at first. Fidelma Collins (FG) gave a very insightful account of campaigning and the use of tallies from previous elections to maintain and increase support. She argued that preparation was key and that this needed to start six months out from the election date. John Russell (MOVE) spoke of the vision of women and men cooperating as equals to achieve progress in society. Sandra McLellan (SF) spoke of her progression from union organiser to elected member of the Dail.


We all left with renewed enthusiasm for the 50:50 project of men and women as equals in the political world.


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