Cllr Olivia O'Sullivan on gender quotas: “Until we have more women running, we’re not going to see more women in seats”
DESPITE a marginal increase in the number of women elected to represent their local districts, Limerick remains 10% under a target set by a campaign group seeking more gender balance in local politics.
With eight women set to take seats on Limerick City and County Council, the new female councillors remain in the minority making up just 20% of the overall council.
Just two women will take council seats in the county and Newcastle West saw no women contest the election in their district.
“It is a shame we only have eight,” newly elected councillor Olivia O’Sullivan, Limerick City North said.
“There was six in the last council, two were co-opted in but if there was more balance in the candidates that were running, you would see more balance and diversity, as well as in the gender side of things, coming through in the result.”
“Until we have more women running, we’re not going to see more women in seats,” she added.
The Fine Gael councillor was elected alongside Sinn Féin’s Sharon Benson in Limerick City North, Fine Gael’s Sarah Kiely, Labour's Elena Secas and Fianna Fáil’s Catherine Slattery in Limerick City East, and Elisa O’Donovan of the Social Democrats in Limerick City West.
In the county, Independent councillor Brigid Teefy was elected to represent Cappamore – Kilmallock, and Fianna Fáil’s Bridie Collins was elected in the Adare-Rathkeale district.
Women for Election, a national campaign group striving for gender balance in politics, had set a target for local authorities to achieve a 30% representation of women.
This, the group argued, was an important step in ensuring future gender balance in general elections.
When compared to 2014, there was a small increase in the number of female candidates contesting the election; from 17% in 2014, to 20% in 2019.
“We don’t have a tradition of it,” Cllr O’Sullivan said. “That is a huge factor. And I guess women don’t see themselves in those roles, not even naturally but subconsciously. That’s going to take a long time to break down.”
When asked if she was in favour of gender quotas at a local level, Cllr O’Sullivan said: “I feel that I’m probably in this because of quotas. I was approached and asked to run and given huge support and encouragement to run.”
“If quotas didn’t exist there is a possibility that might not have been the situation. So yes, I am in favour of quotas for the very fact that it makes parties put the work in to find women.”
“It took a lot of support and encouragement to get me to agree to the process because I am new to it. It's not my background so it does take work to get new people involved.”
“At the end of the day, people will always be elected on their own merit but we do need to get more women running. We need to get more candidates running and after that it is up to the people, who they want to see elected,” she added.