Election 2016 is the first general election in the State where parties have to ensure 30 per cent of their candidates are female, or face financial penalties, and now a campaign group is calling on Galway women to put themselves forward for election to Dáil Éireann.
So far, six women will stand for election across County Galway in Election 2016 - Independent city councillor Catherine Connolly, Fianna Fáil county councillor Mary Hoade, Indepedent senator Fidelma Healy Eames, and Fine Gael senator Hildegarde Naughton for Galway West, along with Labour senator Lorraine Higgins for Galway East. While it is possible more female candidates could emerge in the coming months, it is doubtful if the numbers will rise much beyond the aforementioned quartet. Furthermore, the county has not had a female TD since Máire Geoghegan-Quinn in the 1990s.
However Women for Election, a non-partisan campaign school which encourages women to become more politically active, is now calling for more Galway women to consider putting themselves forward. To encourage this, the group will host EQUIP, a three day residential campaign school, to train, support, and mentor women for the upcoming election in the Hodson Bay Hotel in Athlone from September 7 to 9.
"There are no female TDs in County Galway," said Michelle O’Donnell Keating, chair of Women for Election. "Twenty-two per cent of councillors in the Galway City Council are female, while only 13 per cent of women on the Galway County Council are women. This did represent a three per cent increase from 2009, so Women for Election is hopeful the county can increase female representation in the Dáil."
The EQUIP course will seek to provide participants with a clear election strategy and plan. Participants will practice and receive feedback on core campaign skills including campaign strategy, voter identification, and canvassing; hear from fundraising experts on raising money, ensuring good governance, and designing and sticking to a budget; public speaking and media interview skills; effective media engagement and social media strategy. Leading female politicians will speak at the event.
The 2014 Local Elections saw a 30 per cent increase of women councillors from 16 per cent to 21 per cent across the State, while 16 per cent of TDs are women. Those interested in taking part in EQUIP can email [email protected] or call 01 - 6728050.