This week sees members of both the Dáil and Seanad resume their parliamentary activities, including their work on the various parliamentary committees. Following the results of the General Election, when a historic high of female TDs were elected (22%), Women for Election called for 50:50 Committee Chairs to ensure women hold visible leadership roles. However, of the 23 Committee Chairs that have been confirmed so far, only 6 are women.
Speaking about this, Women for Election’s Chair Michelle O’Donnell Keating said “We are disappointed that our call for 50:50 Committee Chairs has not been met. It is important that the women in the Oireachtas are in leadership and spokesperson roles, so that they can act as encouragement to other women, both in their party and further afield, to run for public office.
“We congratulate the six women who have been appointed as chairs, and look forward to seeing their future work.”
Fine Gael’s Maria Bailey, who is Chair of the Joint Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government, spoke of her role, “Having worked as a County Councillor for over a decade, I have a sound knowledge of the issues covered by my Committee. Our committee has been hard at work over the past months dealing with such topics as The Housing Crisis, Planning Legislative changes and budgetary matters. Though chairing such a committee can be very challenging, I feel I have met that challenge with energy, passion and ability.”
Of the 270 committee places confirmed so far, women account for only 78 (29%). Worryingly, a number of the committees see exceptionally low female representation. Most notably, the Committee on European Union Affairs has zero female members. Studies have shown time and again that a diversity of voices leads to better informed decision making. In a time when the EU is to the forefront of politics, having female representation in discussions surrounding it should be vital.
Deputy Catherine Martin, the Green Party TD for Dublin Rathdown, who works on the Committee for Education and Skills, spoke of the importance of female voices on committees, “Women make up roughly 50% of our population; we need those voices and experiences to be represented in our decision making process. It is important that our future is shaped in a way that takes all opinions into account”.
NOTES FOR EDITOR:
Hildegaarde Naughton TD: Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Change and Natural Resources
Fiona O’Loughlin TD: Committee on Education and Skills
Róisín Shortall TD: Committee on the Future of Healthcare
Maria Bailey TD: Joint Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government
Kathleen Funchion TD: Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement
Mary Butler TD: Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Committee
Committee on European Union Affairs: 0 women
Percentage of female Committee Chairs: 29%
Percentage of women on committees: 26%
Information from Oireachtas.ie 28/09/2016