A gender kink in political reform proposals

Dublin cityscape looking east from the Guinnes...

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There is a recurring desire expressed to see more sittings of the Oireachtas moving to 4 days or even 5 days in part as a means to facilitate more family hours so that there would be less late sittings.

However, this creates another problem, as these same family friendly hours actually only suit those whose families are close enough for them to see them in the evening, i.e. Dublin based TDs or those within commuting distance as other TDs from further afield are actually away from their families during the week. So either the TDs from outside of Dublin move their children, dogs, cats, spouses to Dublin and have them attend school, chase cats and work there or they leave them at home and they only see them at weekends.

But that’s not family friendly at all and it will be to their electoral disadvantage as moving the family and those the family home to Dublin will leave those TDs open to a challenge from a more locally based candidate and the cycle would begin again. So a solution to a problem that we are told has a great impact on getting women, especially those with young child involved in politics it would seem that the likely effect of moving to more shorter sitting days would be to deny female TDs the longevity needed to become ministers, party leaders or ultimately Taoiseach because they either have to leave their children for longer periods of time or leave themselves more vulnerable to electoral defeat.

Of course, a solution to this might be to question why we need the Dail chamber aspect of being a parliamentarian requires you to be in Dublin at all. Might we start to reconsider the assembly nature of Dail process entirely? After all, it’s not like anyone is in the chamber genuinely listening to what others have to say so why do they need to be so close proximity at all? Would it be more properly family friendly to have a virtual chamber?

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