While other Western countries battle turbulent and regressive political landscapes, young people have been at the forefront of ensuring that Ireland does not befall a similar fate. They have been a driving force for change in a country that was long held as a bastion of Catholicism and conservatism.
Young women, in particular, have sought out these changes. Last year, thousands of them pounded pavements up and down the country to ensure that they would be granted the right to bodily autonomy. If you attended a repeal march, demonstration or meeting you would have been greeted with young women ready to challenge a government they felt didn’t represent them or their interests.
In light of these political shifts, it would not have been unreasonable to think that the upcoming local elections would provide an excellent opportunity for Irish political parties to push some of their impressive young women to the fore.
However, change is hard won, and judging by the decision of one of Fianna Fáil to run 18 young men and only one young woman across four provinces, we are far from achieving it.
Besides the fact that Fianna Fáil allowed this disparity to happen in the first place, the decision of Ógra Fianna Fáil – the party’s youth wing – to post photos that drew attention to the lack of female candidates is bewildering. The images of candidates from Leinster and Munster are particularly galling. Thirteen white men stare out from the two photos, not one man more recognisable from the last.
It would not have been unreasonable to think that the upcoming local elections would provide an excellent opportunity for Irish political parties to push some of their impressive young women to the fore
Surely, Ógra Fianna Fáil saw what the optics of such images were? Surely, they recognised that it was one thing having this many men running but an entirely different thing to proudly draw attention to it?
Bewilderment turns to bemusement when you read the tagline of “representing young people” accompanying the photos. While I haven’t checked the census in a while, I can confidently say that being a young person in Ireland does not solely mean being a young white man.
In 2019, there is no excuse for any political party to not have young women on their ticket. There is no excuse for erasing the voices of women, people of colour and other minorities from your ranks. There is especially no excuse for one of the country’s biggest parties and one that advertises its commitment to equality. On its website, Fianna Fáil proudly states that it is “committed to bring forward legislation to ensure that gender quotas are also introduced for local elections”. It would seem that these words have no other purpose than filling an empty space.
Since the foundation of the state, less than 20 women have served in senior ministerial positions and, as a result, there has been a serious lack of consideration for issues that affect half the population. Look to our representation at local level and the picture doesn’t vary vastly. Many of the changes we have sought in recent years may not have been necessary if there had been greater representation at government and local level.
Surely, Ógra Fianna Fáil recognised that it was one thing having this many men running but an entirely different thing to proudly draw attention to it?
Local government is also an important step to nabbing a seat on the benches of Leinster House. Over 85 per cent of the current Dáil once served as a councillor. If we want a more representative government in the future, we need to give young women the opportunity to test their political chops at the local level. At this stage, major political parties should be aware of why representation matters. It is tiring and repetitive to still be shouting about it.
Someone should make sure that Ógra Fianna Fáil is aware that the days of a crowd of white men, young or old, representing everyone’s views in politics are long gone.