Irish Examiner & Quotas

There’s been quite a bit of letter writing to the papers about quotas.  I think quotas are a bad idea.

A letter of mine appeared in the Examiner a few days ago (http://goo.gl/UkSvJ) , with a reply a day later from A.Leavy in Sutton (http://goo.gl/JbsAI) that almost entirely misses the point.

I’ve sent a reply, but it doesn’t seem to have been published yet.

____________________________


Sir,

A.Leavy asks me if I think having the Dail 85% mail is egalitarian, which entirely misses the point of my letter. No-one is saying that an 85% male Dail is good, but quotas are a bad solution.

There was a surge of independent candidates in the last election, and disappointingly few of those were women. Imposing quotas on party lists won’t change that. But funding the current parties from taxpayer funds does handicap independents and does reduce choice for the electorate. Hardly democratic, but that’s the planned impact of the quotas.

In the recent election, the majority female electorate did not chose to retain Mary Hanafin or Mary Coughlan. Should they have? Just because they have different chromosomes to most of the historic membership? Mary Harney’s sex might not have guaranteed her a seat and she didn’t even run. Should we replace the unpopular Marys with other women just because they’re women? Really? Even if a majority female electorate were the ones rejecting them and electing others? Hardly democratic, but that’s the planned impact of the quotas.

It would be great if the Dail had more balance, but bringing in legislated sexism is not a good response. Quotas embedded in legislation will perpetuate the gender wars that Ireland – and people of my generation and younger – have already moved beyond. If there are specific problems for potential female candidates or problems with the Dail’s rules that make life difficult for female TDs then we should address the specific issues. You’d never know, maybe it would bring out more good male candidates too.

Quotas are a blunt instrument, the wrong solution, and a blow to free democracy that’ll be very hard to undo once they’re in place.

One of Ireland’s main problems is that our parliament is overfilled with chancers and seat warmers. For every Bruton, McGuinness, Quinn or Donnelly, there are a dozen seat warmers. I’d happily replace them with almost any woman, but a democracy should have free choice for the electorate.

Free choice is democratic. Quotas aren’t.

Regards

Hugh Sheehy

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