‘Quotas needed to redress gender imbalance’ – Gildernew

Posted By: February 04, 2016

 Ryan McAleer. Ulster Herald.Tuesday, February 2, 2016

FORMER Sinn Fein MP Michelle Gildernew has called for legislation to redress the gender imbalance in local politics.

The comments were made to the Ulster Herald before Sunday’s controversial Fermanagh and South Tyrone constituency meeting in Enniskillen, where three Fermanagh men, Sean Lynch, Phil Flanagan and John Feely were selected to contest the election for Sinn Fein ahead of  Ms Gildernew and current MLA Bronwyn McGahan.

Women account for 51 per-cent of the North’s population, but make up just 21 per-cent of MLAs, while just two of the north’s 18 MPs are female.

“It’s my belief it should be legislated for. If we allow it to grow organically, it will take far too long,” said Ms Gildernew.

“Women need to be represented in public life and that is just not in public life, in every walk of life we need women participating to their full extent.”

The former Agriculture Minister said society is often skewed against women progressing in political life.

“Women are asked to come out of work to do things for society and that has an impact on their ability. When our society is equal, we can drop the quotas. In the mean time, we need them.”


Michelle Gildernew also told the Ulster Herald that was delighted to see Arlene Foster secure the position as First Minister.

“I think it’s great to see Arlene as First Minister. Young girls and teenagers will go – ‘You know what, that’s not out of my sphere of possibilities.’

“I love to see women role models, whether that’s in science, engineering, maths or politics. We need more women in high profile public positions to help equalize our society.”

Dublin has already taken legislative action via the Electoral (Political Funding) Act, passed in 2012, which provides that political parties will lose half of their central funding unless 30 per-cent of their candidates in the Dáil election are female.

While there is no legislation in Westminster, Labour under Tony Blair famously introduced all-female shortlists for certain constituencies for the 1997 General Election.

Michelle Gildernew said the North has been slow to take similar action.

“I think we missed a trick. When we went to the supercouncils, we should have ensured that the council business happened 9-5, Monday to Friday.

“If a councillor is expected to all their work in the evenings, that is automatically going to impact on the amount of women who are willing to make that decision to put their name forward.”

“We need to see quotas, we need family-friendly hours. That doesn’t just benefit women, it benefits men as well.

“We’re more than 50 per-cent of the population, if we’re not given the chance to work to our full potential, then we’re all flying on one wing.”


Recalling her entry into the Assembly in 1998, the former Agriculture Minister claimed that Sinn Féin’s then five female MLAs were on a ‘hate list’ within the chamber.

“When I went into the Assembly as a fresh faced innocent 28-year-old, I got dogs abuse. Top of the hate list in Sinn Féin was Bairbre de Brún. Top of the hate list in the SDLP was Brid Rodgers,” she said.

Ms Gildernew claimed that Sinn Féin’s female MLAs were top of the so-called hate list, followed by the two Women’s Coalition MLAs, with Ms Rodgers at number eight.

“The worst thing was, when they were cat-calling and heckling across the benches, other women MLAs were taking part. There was no sisterhood down there and no solidarity among women.

“It doesn’t happen now, but it was very disappointing that women were prepared to heckle other women just on the basis of their gender.”