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5.4 SOCIOLOGY, Demography, Social topics, Women's and gender studies

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Irish Political Studies, vol. 35, issue 4, 2020.


The February 2020 general election will be remembered as the “change” election, when the two dominant parties of Irish politics, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, trailed behind Sinn Féin in voters' preferences for the first time. However, for the gender balance of Irish politics, much remained unchanged. While the number of women elected to Dáil Éireann increased by one, this marginal growth since the 2016 general election was deemed a disappointment by analysts and advocates alike. A review of candidacy reveals that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael lag behind other parties in terms of the proportion of women selected and rely on the 'add-on' route to shore up their female candidacy base. The success rates of female candidates were markedly lower than those of their male counterparts in the Labour party, Greens, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. However, the election was a good outing for women in the Social Democrats and Sinn Féin, and especially for Mary Lou McDonald, who became the first woman to lead a party to top-spot in an Irish general election. The legislative gender quota continued to play an integral role in ensuring a critical mass of women were selected to contest the general election. In many respects, 2020 was a consolidation election for the gender quota as it fits-in and integrates into party candidate selection processes. Yet, with just 22.5% of the seats in Dáil Éireann occupied by women, the legislative gender quota should be viewed as the start rather than the culmination of efforts to support women's candidacy and election.


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