'Someday Girls, Someday': Legislating for Gender Quotas in the Republic of Ireland
15 Pages Posted: 5 Apr 2013
Date Written: March 20, 2013
In July 2012, legislation on political party funding and candidate gender quotas was enacted by the Irish Parliament. The Electoral (Amendment) (Political Funding) Act 2012 provides for a 30 per cent gender quota for party candidates at the next general election, rising to 40 per cent seven years thereafter. Non-compliant parties will lose half of their annual state funding. This paper is concerned with addressing the question: why did Irish political parties, who have always been so reluctant to tackle the question of women’s under-representation, suddenly do a volte-face and introduce such a radical measure to address the problem? In answering this question, we argue that the system shock stemming from the recent Irish economic crisis, as well as atypical political behaviour, were significant contributory factors to the adoption of legislative gender quotas in the Republic of Ireland. The moment of the economic crisis and the ensuing political reform discourse provided a carpe diem opportunity for the women’s movement, feminist parliamentarians and academic actors, to finally push gender quotas onto the legislative agenda. Rather than the economic crisis being a starting point for the debate on women’s participation in public life, it was in fact a tipping point, the moment when years of research and campaigning finally reached the political agenda. Legislating for gender quotas was also a way of quickly responding to societal demands for political reform, but knowing that the quota did not require immediate implementation (it would be enacted someday), it was in fact a way for politicians to rid themselves of a thorny issue in the short-term – a typical political act.
Keywords: Gender Quotas, Ireland, Women in Politics
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