Contesting Politics: Women in Ireland, North and South

By Yvonne Galligan; Eilís Ward et al. | Go to book overview
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11
Women and Nominated Boards in Ireland

DEIRDRE HEENAN AND ANNE MARIE GRAY

Traditionally there has been a low representation of women in areas of political decisionmaking on the island of Ireland. Although women have been politically active at a grassroots level, they have been much less likely to reach the higher echelons of political life (see Galligan and Wilford, Chapter 8, this volume). This chapter examines women's representation in relation to appointed public bodies, a traditional and important feature of government administration in both parts of Ireland.

In the nineteenth century the appointed board was a form of administration favoured by the Westminster Parliament. These boards were viewed as a useful means of maintaining control over the peripheral regions of the United Kingdom. After the partition of Ireland this form of administration retained its popularity in the North and South of Ireland and continued to fulfil a wide range of executive and advisory functions.

Any discussion of the use of nominated public bodies inevitably begins with reference to the debate about terms and definitions. The considerable volume of academic literature in the late 1970s and 1980s relating to the use of such bodies resulted in a number of publications, each providing its own term and definition. The most commonly used term is "quango," -- quasiautonomous nongovernmental organisation. Other terms include "non-- departmental appointed public agencies" ( Johnson 1979); "para-government organisations" ( Hood 1988); "fringe bodies" ( Bowen 1987); and the term favoured by government in the UK, "non-departmental public bodies". The terms "state-sponsored body" and "state board" are generally applied in the Republic of Ireland. These terms are now more commonly used than the earlier "semi-state bodies", though all are used interchangeably. Chubb ( 1992) also points to the lack of precision regarding the legal or other authoritative definition of the term "state-sponsored body". The lack

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