Women in the Oireachtas: Dáil Éireann

In 2012, the Oireachtas passed the Electoral (Amendment) (Political Funding) Act, which mandated that political parties would lose half their funding unless the minority sex among their candidates accounted for at least 30% of the national number of candidates in a general election. In practice, this act established gender quotas for the purpose of increasing the number of women nominated as candidates by political parties.

Ireland has a mixed history when it comes to the status of its women. Countess Constance Markiewicz is remembered as a hero of the Irish independence movement, and she became the Irish state's first female TD after the 1918 general election, and its first female minister a year later. Margaret Pearse, Mary McSwiney and Kathleen Clarke were elected in 1921, each of them family members of independence figures who had died in the previous five years.

All Irish women over 21 were given the right to vote in 1921. The voting age was lowered to 18 for men and women in 1972. In 1937 the current Constitution, Bunreacht na hÉireann, came into force. It contains the controversial Article 41.2, which states that "the State recognises that by her life within the home, woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved... The State shall, therefore, endeavour to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home." For the first few decades of the state's existence, there was a ban on married women working in the public sector. This was eased for female teachers in 1959, and the marriage ban as a whole abolished in 1973. Discrimination in the workplace on the grounds of gender was made illegal in 1977.

As Irish society began to liberalise in the 1980s, it became easier for women to get involved in politics. Máire Geoghegan-Quinn became the first female minister since Markiewicz when she was appointed Gaeltacht Minister in 1979. Mary Robinson became a prominent voice in the Seanad, and made history in 1990 by becoming Ireland's first female President, as well as the first female head of state to be succeeded by another woman. Mary McAleese served two terms as President between 1997 and 2011.

Mary Harney became the first female leader of an Irish political party in 1993, and the first female Tánaiste four years later. In 2014 Joan Burton became the first female leader of one of the three traditionally biggest parties.

This post will focus on women's representation in Dáil Éireann, looking at the number of female TDs that have served from 1918 to the present day. The video below shows how many female TDs there have been, along with where they represented and when they served. The links below will go into more detail.