Women's Political Representation in Ireland
YVONNE GALLIGAN AND RICK WILFORD
Women are consistently underrepresented in Parliament and political life on the island of Ireland. The persistence of this representational bias suggests that there are systematic barriers facing women who seek to engage in parliamentary politics that do not appear to significantly affect the political career opportunities of men. This chapter begins by setting out the record of women's political participation at the parliamentary, local, and European level in Ireland. It continues by exploring reasons for the dearth of women in political life north and south of the border, including explanations based on popular attitudes towards women in politics, the role of incumbency (holding of political office immediately prior to an election), and the contribution of electoral systems in militating against women's political participation. Finally, we turn the spotlight on the political parties and their candidate-selection strategies. We assess their record in promoting women's political careers and assess the scope for party initiatives in this area.
The June 1997 general election in the Republic of Ireland, held under the customary single transferable vote (stv) system, returned 20 (12 percent) women TDs (teachtaí dála, members of Parliament) to the Dáil (Parliament). This represented a decrease of 3 on women's outgoing parliamentary representation (since 3 additional women had been elected at by-elections during the lifetime of the 1992-1997 Dáil) but was the same