Where could Fianna Fail run female candidates at the next general election, in response to the party’s Markiewicz Report:

Adrian Kavanagh, 15th January 2015 (updated: 23rd June 2015)

January 15th 2015 saw the publication of the Markievicz Commission Report, which set out targets for Fianna Fail to reach in order to meet the requirements set by the gender quota legislation. This legislation demands that at least 30% of all the candidates running for political parties at the next general election should be female candidates (and at least 30% should be male candidates!). This report set a target for Fianna Fail of selecting between 20 and 27 female candidates, suggesting that female candidates should be contesting at least half of the constituencies where the party currently does not have a TD (22 of the 40 constituencies in all, given that Fianna Fail currently has two TDs in Cork South-Central and Galway East).

“The National Constituencies Committee should work to field at least one woman candidate in half of the constituencies where the Party has no sitting TD and in half of those constituencies where the Party holds one seat and where it wishes to run more than one candidate.”

The report suggested that the party could have all-female candidate tickets in two or three constituencies, while the party should also aim to have female candidates in half of the constituencies where Fianna Fail currently has a sitting TD and plans to run more than one candidate at the next general election.

Some commentators, no doubt relating back to the party’s selection patterns at past general election contests and the percentage of female candidates selected to run for Fianna Fail at last May’s local elections, may think that Fianna Fail could struggle to reach this target. However, in drawing up a list of potential female candidates in the forty different constituencies that will be contested at the next general election, I would suggest that Fianna Fail has a more than sufficient number of potential candidates to choose from in order to comfortably attain the targets set out in this report and thus meet the stipulations set out in the gender quota legislation.

Update: At this point (11th August 2015), Fianna Fail have held selection conventions in 29 of the 40 Dail constituencies being contested at the next general election. 39 candidates were selected at these conventions, with five candidates being subsequently added to the party ticket by headquarters after the convention was held (Norma Moriarty in Kerry, Frank O’Rourke in Kildare North, Eddie Fitzpatrick in Offaly, Siobhan Ambrose and Michael Smith in Tipperary). Females accounted for 8 of the 39 candidates who were selected at conventions (20.5%) of the total. When Siobhan Ambrose and Norma Moriarty are added in, this means that Fianna Fail has – at this point in time – selected ten female candidates to contest the next general election – 22.7% of the total number (39) of party candidates selected by Fianna Fail to date.

19 females have contested Fianna Fail selection conventions so far, with 8 of these proving successful (42.1%) and 11 of these losing out (57.9%), as detailed in the table below. Siobhan Ambrose was subsequently added to the candidates list in Tipperary, after finishing in third place in that convention, meaning that 9 (47.4%) of the 19 females who contested Fianna Fail selection conventions have now been selected as candidates. (Norma Moriarty did not contest the Kerry selection convention.) 51 males have contested selection conventions so far, with 31 of these proving successful (59.6%) and 21 losing out (40.4%). Three of the unsuccessful candidates (Smith, O’Rourke and Fitzpatrick) were, however, subsequently added to the party ticket by party headquarters, meaning that 34 (65.4%) of the male candidates who contested party selection conventions subsequently made it on to the party ticket, either by convention vote or headquarters add.

Averil Power left Fianna Fail in late May 2015, reducing the potential number of female candidates in the Dublin Bay North constituency.

Constituencies in which conventions have been already held are highlighted by italics in the list below. Candidates who have been selected are highlighted by bold font, while candidates who lost at selection conventions are highlighted by bold italics. Females who did not subsequently contest the party selection convention are highlighted by italics (not in bold).

Constituency Fianna Fail Maximum Number
Carlow-Kilkenny Jennifer Murnane-O’Connor 1
Cavan-Monaghan Niamh Smyth, Margaret Conlon 2
Clare Clare Colleran Molloy, Rita McInerney 1
Cork East Emer O’Donovan 1
Cork North Central Mary Shields 1
Cork North West Sinead Lucey 0
Cork South Central Mary Rose Desmond 0
Cork South West Margaret Murphy-O’Mahony, Deirdre Kelly, Gillian Coughlan 2
Donegal Mary Coughlan, Rena Donaghey, Aine McGinley 1
Dublin Central Mary Fitzpatrick 1
Dublin Mid West Caitriona McClean 1
Dublin Fingal Lorraine Clifford 1
Dublin Bay North Deirdre Heney, Aileen Woods 1
Dublin North West Laura Reid 0
Dublin Rathdown Mary White, Maria Corrigan 1
Dublin South Central Catherine Ardagh 1
Dublin Bay South Mary Bohan 1
Dublin South West Emma Murphy 1
Dublin West Anita Lenihan, Mags Murray 1
Dun Laoghaire Jennifer Cuffe, Mary Hanafin, Kate Feeney 2
Galway East Anne Rabbitte, Martina Kinane 1
Galway West Mary Hoade, Christina Nic Dhonnacha, Stephanie Murphy-Penn 1
Kerry County Norma Foley, Norma Moriarty* 1
Kildare North Aine Brady, Deborah Callaghan, Grainne Whelan 0
Kildare South Suzanne Doyle, Fiona O’Loughlin 1
Laois Catherine Fitzgerald 1
Offaly Sinead Dooley 0
Limerick City    
Longford-Westmeath Avril Whitney 1
Mayo Lisa Chambers, Annie May Reape 1
Meath East Claire O’Driscoll, Patricia Heritage, Deirdre Smith 1
Meath West Vera Kelly 1
Roscommon-Galway Orla Leyden, Rachel Doherty 1
Sligo-Leitrim Sinead Guckian, Rosaleen O’Grady 1
Tipperary Imelda Goldsboro, Siobhan Ambrose* 1
Waterford Mary Butler, Anne Marie Rossiter 1
Wexford Barbara Anne Murphy 1
Wicklow Taragh Hanley 1
Maximum Number (Total) 35

In compiling this list, I have drawn mainly from the party’s list of councillors (e.g. Lisa Chambers, Imelda Goldsboro, Sinead Guckian, Deborah Callaghan, Catherine Ardagh), as well as Senator Mary White, but have also included (0ther) candidates who contested the 2011 General Election (e.g. Mary Coughlan, Maria Corrigan, Margaret Conlon).

I have also included some of the party’s local election candidates who did fail to win seats at the May local elections, but who polled well at these contests nonetheless, mindful of the fact that Deputy Marcella Corcorcan-Kennedy went on to win a seat in 2011 despite failing to win a County Council seat in the 2009 elections. Potential candidates included in this category would include Laura Reid, Caitriona McClean, Deirdre Kelly, Emma Murphy and Lorraine Clifford. In the latter case, Lorraine Clifford contested Pembroke-South Dock, but has since moved to the Dublin Fingal constituency area, where she (or Clara La Combre) could potentially be a running mate for the already selected Darragh O’Brien.

I have also included some females who contested party selection conventions ahead of the 2014 Local Elections, but failed to get selected at these (and were not subsequently added by party headquarters), namely Sinead Lucey and Mary Bohan. Anita Lenihan would, of course, also fit into this category, given that she contested the selection convention to contest last year’s Dublin West by-election for Fianna Fail.

I also added other female candidates who do not conform to the above criteria, but who have already been talked about as being potential candidates for the Fianna Fail party selection convention, as with Christina Nic Dhonnacha in the Galway West constituency (she, subsequently, did not contest that convention).

The maximum number details relate to (what I consider to be likely) to be the maximum number of female candidates that Fianna Fail might decide to run in a given constituency. In most cases – excluding those constituencies where I could not find potential candidates – the number is one, even in cases where I have listed a number of potential female candidates. This can be because a (male) incumbent is already based in the constituency or because geographical concerns dictate that the party would be unlikely to select more than one of the females listed for that constituency (i.e. because they are all based in a similar part of that constituency).  There are, however, some constituencies where the party could easily run two female candidates – either as a all-female two candidate ticket or as part or a larger candidate slate along with other (male) candidates. In January 2015, this group of constituencies would have included Dun Laoghaire, Tipperary, Kildare North and Dublin Bay North. Subsequent developments mean that Fianna Fail will select – at most – one female candidate in most of these constituencies.

In a number of the cases listed here, of course, the potential female candidates listed may of course choose not to seek the party nomination (or indeed have already chosen not to so so), or could lose out at a party selection convention, as has happened in a number of cases.

In other cases, geographical constraints may restrict potential female candidates, as would be most obvious in cases where the home base of a potential female candidate is located very close to/close to the home base of a (male) incumbent. But even with the exclusion of cases such as these, it should still be more than feasible for Fianna Fail to find twenty, or more, female general election candidates from the list above, especially allowing for the fact that other, new, female candidates (not included on the list above) may emerge over the coming months.

I had estimated that, with the above provisions noted, the maximum number of female candidates that Fianna Fail could have potentially selected from ahead of these elections was 43. I had initially assumed that Mary Fitzpatrick would follow her Ashtown/Navan Road base, which was formerly part of the Dublin Central constituency, into Dublin West and that she would be more likely to be seeking to contest that constituency at the upcoming election. However, she did not contest the Dublin West selection convention and is now probably more likely to contest Dublin Central instead. This means that Fianna Fail would need just half of, or maybe slightly over half of, these potential candidates to ensure they were running a female candidate number of at least the low 20s at the next general election.

Update: At this point in time, Fianna Fail selection conventions have taken place in twenty nine different Dail constituencies (all highlighted by italics) and ten female candidates (highlighted in bold) have been selected at these, while ten female candidates lost out at selection conventions. In some of the constituencies in which conventions have already taken place, there is still some scope for a further candidate to be added by party headquarters at a later date. But, given that Fianna Fail is unlikely to run more than two candidates in a three-seat or four-seat constituency and unlikely to run more than one candidate in certain three-seaters, it is safe to claim that the party now will not run a female candidate in constituencies such as Cork South-Central, Dublin North-West, Kildare North or Offaly. With similar revisions now also factored in, the maximum number of potential female candidates has been reviewed downwards to 35. 


About Adrian Kavanagh

Lecturer at the Maynooth University Department of Geography. Email: adrian.p.kavanagh@mu.ie
This entry was posted in Candidates, Gender, General Election and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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