Contesting Politics: Women in Ireland, North and South

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

9
Gender and Party Politics in the Republic of Ireland

YVONNE GALLIGAN AND RICK WILFORD

Recent scholarship ( Lovenduski and Norris 1993; Lovenduski and Randall 1993) has tended to suggest that the more radical discourse of the early phase of second-wave feminism elaborated at least two significant themes: first, an unreflective belief in the existence of a universal (and oppressed) sisterhood that was either sublimely ignorant of or simply insensitive to difference and diversity and second, not just antipathy towards but also alienation from all man-made and hence, by definition, patriarchal institutions. Such institutions, including political parties, were discounted as agencies of change, many feminists preferring instead to engage in activities that were self-consciously empowering for women and, consequently, isolated from the political mainstream/malestream.

More recently, these themes have tended to recede. Sameness has been displaced not merely by the recognition of diversity but by its celebration. Moreover, far from shunning political parties, women have made concerted efforts to enter political parties, seeking not only more equal representation at the level of party offices and candidacy but the reshaping and redefinition of their policy agendas, although not always in what might loosely be construed as a feminist direction. This chapter examines the roles accorded to women within the parties in the Republic and party policies in relation to gender issues.

In order to set this discussion in context, we have devised a hybrid model of party policies on women's representation adapted from a combination of Chamberlayne's ( 1993: 172-175) typology of gender relations in social policy and Brown and Galligan ( 1993: 185-187) model of gender relations within parties in Scotland and the Republic of Ireland. We suggest that party perspectives on women, as party members and as citizens for whom a party may have developed specific policies, can fall into

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