Contesting Politics: Women in Ireland, North and South

By Yvonne Galligan; Eilís Ward et al. | Go to book overview

on boards as a priority. There are a number of measures that could be taken. If more nominations were sought from the voluntary sector, where large numbers of women are involved, and from women's organizations, female representation could be increased. Any initiatives introduced by departments need to be monitored and assessed rigorously. The goal should be more women appointees not only to state bodies but to more influential bodies and women in more senior positions. Otherwise, there is the danger of women remaining more likely to be appointed to unpaid posts in advisory bodies. As the report by the NWCI to the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995 noted: "Women's equal participation in decision making is not only a demand for simple justice or democracy, but it can also be seen as a necessary condition for women's interest to be taken into account. Without the active participation of women and the incorporation of women's perspective at all levels of decision making, the goals of equality development and peace cannot be achieved" ( Ireland DELR 1995: 304).

In Ireland, North and South, there is some distance to go before women are equal participants in public decisionmaking. Sperley ( 1997) argues that the experience of the European Parliament and local government in Britain demonstrates that the presence of women does influence policy output. In terms of electoral politics, an increase in the number of elected women representatives has resulted in the placement of women's issues on the political agenda. In all parts of Ireland, public bodies have major responsibility for public services, and it is important that women are on these boards, influencing policy output and implementation. A major source of difficulty is that public bodies are outside the core system of government and are therefore not always subject to the same attention, scrutiny, and accountability as elected bodies or core government agencies. This means that to a large extent the difficulties in engaging with the system are hidden by the informality and opaqueness that typify this area of governance. What is required is an open discussion and appraisal of public administration in Ireland, North and South, an acknowledgement of the power and influence wielded by this layer of government, and a recognition that representation and diversity are major prerequisites to real accountability in this sector.


REFERENCES

Barker Anthony (ed.), Quangos in Britain: Government and the Networks of Public Policy-making, London: Macmillan, 1982.

Birrell Derek, and Alan Murie, Policy and Government in Northern Ireland: Lessons of Devolution, Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 1980.

Bowen Gordon, A Survey of Fringe-Bodies, London: Civil Service Department, 1978.

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