The Irish legislative gender quota: The first election

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Abstract

In 2012 legislative gender quotas were introduced as part of the Fine Gael/Labour coalition government’s political reform agenda. The legislation specifies that payments to political parties ‘shall be reduced by 50 per cent, unless at least 30 per cent of the candidates whose candidatures were authenticated by the qualified party at the preceding general election were women and at least 30 per cent were men’. The 30 per cent gender threshold came into effect at the 2016 general election. Research demonstrates that gender quotas work to increase women’s political descriptive representation, but to do so, political parties must engage with them in ‘goodwill’, be ‘wellintentioned’ or place women in ‘winnable seats’. This article examines if this was the case at the 2016 general election. Using statistics, as well as drawing from interviews with party strategists, the article assesses the impact of gender quotas on women’s candidate selection and election. We conclude that parties did embrace the spirit of the gender quota law but resistance remains.

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