Green Party calls for greater support for women in politics as Councillor resigns due to family commitments
Clare O’Byrne, Green Party Councillor for South County Dublin Council, will today give her official resignation following the recent birth of her first child.
Speaking of her experience Clare stated:
“Since I took on the role of Councillor in February 2020, I’ve been committed to bringing about positive change in my locality for the benefit of the environment, the community and our children’s future. It’s been both a rewarding and challenging role, which I have enjoyed immensely. Unfortunately, with the arrival of my firstborn, I have come to realise the impossibility of balancing my role as a new mother with that of a councillor. The unavailability of maternity leave for elected representatives is a serious obstacle that prevents women from running for and remaining in office. Things need to change, not only for my daughter or the next generation of women in politics, but this generation.”
Women in politics face a range of barriers, described by non-profit organisation Women for Election as the 5 Cs – confidence, childcare, cash, candidate selection, and culture. They’ve recently added a sixth, ‘cyberspace’, reflecting the worrying increase in harassment and abuse faced by female representatives online.
The Green Party in Government is determined to explore means of addressing these issues through electoral reform, reform of local government and engagement with women’s advocacy organisations. Minister of State for Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan TD, said that an opportunity existed within the recently published Electoral Reform Bill to address issues of women’s participation in politics via the proposed electoral commission.
Minister Noonan stated:
“We can and must do better; we need to engage in a participative process with women in politics to establish what changes are needed in terms of childcare, hours of meetings and moving the role of the elected member more towards strategic bigger-picture policymaking and away from the current clientelist system. It is a loss to politics, to community representation and to local government to lose a councillor of the calibre of Clare O’Byrne. It is happening all too often and will continue unless fundamental changes are brought about.”
Minister Noonan said that the Greens would work with government partners to effect change in how local government is organised and structured.
“It is my hope that when established, the electoral commission will be tasked with a research and advocacy role that would include researching international best practice on the participation of women in politics. Similarly, we anticipate that the commission would engage with civil society and ongoing media campaigns to promote greater participation and encourage change in how local authorities and the Oireachtas conduct their business towards a way that is more family friendly.”
Councillor O’Byrne continued:
“I greatly admire both the women and men within my own party and across the political spectrum who have to balance political and family life while being denied their basic right to maternity or paternity leave. I will continue to support my colleagues in the Green Party as we strive for better and healthier lives for our communities and our children.”
Note: Globally, just over 25% of political representatives are female. In Ireland, we are below average with just 22.5% of Dáil seats currently held by women. Councillors, Senators and TDs have no rights to parental leave in Ireland, a fact that is increasingly inconsistent with the rest of the world. A global survey of parliaments in 2011 by the Inter-parliamentary Union (IPU) found that in 62% of cases, maternity leave provisions for women parliamentarians were the same as those prescribed by national law, 12% adopted their own formal policies and 26% had no special provisions. Ireland falls into the final category.