This letter actually pre-dates the more sarcastic one I posted yesterday, I had higher hopes for this one. Sadly, it was not to be.
The linkage of state funding for political parties, which is explicitly given on the basis that it can’t be used for electoral campaigning purposes, to the manner in which they conduct their campaigns is deeply ironic. This irony would be merely a matter of fun if the proposal was not also blind to the electoral realities of our society. As was noted on these pages on March 24th by John Colgan PC, in respect of the NUI Seanad panel elections, “There are no political party hoops to jump and no time-serving as a “ward heeler” is required. In the three elections – in years 2002, 2007, and 2011 – there were 16, 24 and 27 candidates, respectively; of these, there were three, seven and now only four, women seeking election.“
When it comes to electoral politics, those most involved, for all their fervour, are frequently blind to the fact that the vast majority of men and even more women choose not to get involved for a variety for entirely rational reasons. Instead of seeking to address those reasons that affect everyone, those advocating for quotas are merely salving the symptoms of the under representation of one grouping, as it happens a majority grouping, while allowing the growing disinterest and apathy of the vast bulk of the populous in electoral politics to continue as is. It’s not simply that we need more women as candidates; we need more of everyone to become involved.
This measure will simply encourage Irish political parties, which are after all seeking to win seats in an election, to be even more conservative in their candidate selection. They will choose in the main the sort of middle class, middle aged, women with family or insider connections to the party hierarchy that we see too much of in our male candidate selections. The reserving of 30% of places for women will do nothing at all to assist those women or men who do not contest elections for reasons associated with the much touted 4 C’s of childcare, culture, cash or confidence. Instead it will decidedly favour those women from whom the 4C’s were not problems in getting involved in electoral politics in the first place. There are other practical ways to reform our electoral system more broadly so as to encourage participation by more people and to encourage political parties to run more diverse tickets at election that are not getting any airing at all.