Where could Fine Gael run female candidates at the next general election?

Adrian Kavanagh, 16th January 2015

Following yesterday’s post on the situation with Fianna Fail, this post will consider the case of Fine Gael in relation to the candidate selection decisions that party needs to make in order to meet the requirements set by the gender quota legislation, which 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!). Given that party’s success at the 2011 General Election and the large number of (mainly male) Fine Gael candidates elected at that contest, the target number of female candidates for this party needs to somewhat higher than the levels set for Fianna Fail in the Markievicz Commission Report.

Based on my earlier analysis, the smallest number of female candidates that Fine Gael could run at the next general election in order to meet the requirements of the gender quota legislation probably falls within a range of between 25 and 32 female candidates. The final number is probably likely to fall somewhere towards the upper end of this range.

Given the large number of male Fine Gael incumbents, the gender quota legislation poses greater challenges for them than for any other party in the state. Against that, the party has the largest number of female representatives – at the European, national and local levels – in the Republic of Ireland. Fine Gael currently have two female MEPs (Deirdre Clune and Mairead McGuinness), 11 female TDs (highlighted in the list below by a *), 3 female Senators (highlighted in the list below by a ^) and 50 female City and County Councillors, amounting to 66 elected female representatives in all. Given that, the pool of potential Fine Gael female candidates is very strong, suggesting the party will have no difficulties in finding enough female candidates to achieve a target of selecting c.30 female candidates to contest the next general election. As the list below shows, Fine Gael have at least one potential candidate in each one of the 40 constituencies and indeed have a number of potential candidates in some of these constituencies. Ironically, given that female candidates generally tend to fare stronger in urban areas and particularly in Dublin, the only constituencies that the party does not, at present, appear to have potential female candidates are Dublin North-West and Dublin Central.

Update: At this point (11th August 2015), Fine Gael have held selection conventions in 24 of the 40 Dail constituencies being contested at the next general election. 45 candidates were selected at these conventions, with three candidates being subsequently added to the party ticket by headquarters after conventions were held (Richard Bruton in Dublin Bay North, Maria Bailey in Dun Laoghaire, David Fitzgerald in Carlow-Kilkenny). Females accounted for 14 of the 45 candidates who were selected at conventions – 31.1% of the total. Females account for 31.3% of the total number (48) of party candidates selected by Fine Gael to date, when the party headquarters additions of Maria Bailey, Richard Bruton and David Fitzgerald are also factored in.

18 females have contested Fine Gael selection conventions so far, with 14 of these proving successful (77.8%) and 4 losing out (22.2%), as detailed in the table below. Maira Bailey was added to the Dun Laoghaire candidate list after this convention was held, meaning that 15 of the 18 females (83.3%) who contested the party nomination subsequently became general election candidates. 44 males have contested selection conventions so far, with 32 of these proving successful (72.7%) and 12 losing out (27.3%). Two of the unsuccessful candidates (Fitzgerald and Bruton) were, however, subsequently added to the party ticket by party headquarters, meaning that 77.3% of the male candidates who contested party selection conventions subsequently made it on to the party ticket, either by convention vote or headquarters add.

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 Fine Gael selection are highlighted by (non-bold) italics.

 Constituency Fine Gael Maximum Number
Carlow-Kilkenny Fidelis Doherty, Mary Hilda Cavanagh 0
Cavan-Monaghan Heather Humphries*, Madeline Argue, Carmel Brady, Ciara McPhillips 2
Clare Marian McMahon Jones, Mary Howard 1
Cork East Kay Dawson, Susan McCarthy, Sinead Sheppard 1
Cork North Central Sue-Ellen Carroll, Lynsey Clarke 1
Cork North West Aine Collins* 1
Cork South Central Deirdre Clune**, Laura McGonigle, Deirdre Forde 1
Cork South West Mary Hegarty 1
Donegal Grace Boyle 1
Dublin Central    0
Dublin Mid West Frances Fitzgerald*, Emer Higgins, Vicki Casserly 1
Dublin Fingal Janette McNamara 0
Dublin Bay North Stephanie Regan, Aoibhinn Tormey 1
Dublin North West 0
Dublin Rathdown Olivia Mitchell*, Josepha Madigan 1
Dublin South Central Catherine Byrne*, Edel James 1
Dublin Bay South Kate O’Connell, Linda O’Shea Farren, Nadine Meisonnave 1
Dublin South West Cait Keane^, Anne-Marie Dermody 1
Dublin West Catherine Noone^, Eithne Loftus 1
Dun Laoghaire Mary Mitchell-O’Connor*, Maria Bailey, Marie Baker, Patricia Stewart, Mary Fayne 2
Galway East Bridie Williers 1
Galway West Hildegarde Naughton^, Niamh Byrne, Eileen Mannion 1
Kerry County Aoife Thornton 0
Kildare North Jacinta O’Sullivan 0
Kildare South Fiona McLoughlin-Healy 1
Laois Mary Sweeney 1
Offaly Marcella Corcoran-Kennedy* 1
Limerick City Marian Hurley, Maria Byrne 1
Limerick Rose Brennan 1
Longford-Westmeath Gabrielle McFadden*, Peggy Nolan 1
Louth Mairead McGuinness**, Sharon Tolan, Maria Doyle, Dolores Minogue 0
Mayo Michelle Mulherin* 1
Meath East Regina Doherty*, Helen McEntee*, Maria Murphy 2
Meath West Sarah Reilly 0
Roscommon-Galway Maura Hopkins 1
Sligo-Leitrim Imelda Henry^, Sinead Maguire, Finola Armstrong-McGuire 1
Tipperary Phyll Bugler, Mary Hanna Hourigan, Marie Murphy 0
Waterford Lola O’Sullivan 0
Wexford Kathleen Codd-Nolan, Aine Lacy-O’Meara 1
Wicklow Irene Winters, Grainne McLoughlin 0
Maximum Number (Total) 32

In compiling this list, I have included all of the party’s TDs (e.g. Catherine Byrne, Marcella Corcoran-Kennedy) and Senators (e.g. Catherine Noone, Imelda Henry and Hildegarde Naughton) as well as Mairead McGuinness MEP and Deirdre Clune MEP, but this list has been drawn mainly from the party’s list of councillors (e.g. Maura Hopkins, Kate O’Connell, Phyll Bugler and Vicki Casserly).

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 Nadine Meisonnave, Stephanie Regan and Marian McMahon-Jones. As the candidate selection process develops, I will also add other female candidates who do not conform to the above criteria, but who are being/have been talked about as being potential candidates for the Fine Gael party selection conventions in different constituencies. One such potential candidate would be Aoibhinn Tormey in Dublin North-West, who was recently appointed as a member of the Young Fine Gael executive.

The maximum number details relate to (what I consider to be likely) to be the maximum number of female candidates that Fine Gael 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 is usually because a number of (male) incumbents are 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 (as would appear to be highly likely in the case of the Meath East constituency) or as part or a larger candidate slate along with other (male) candidates.

Note – the stress here is on potential candidates – at least until the Fine Gael candidate selection process starts. In a number of the cases listed here, of course, the potential female candidates listed here may, of course, choose not to seek the party nomination, or else could lose out at a party selection convention. 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 Fine Gael to find thirty, 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 have estimated that, with the above provisions noted, the maximum number of female candidates that Fine Gael could potentially select ahead of these elections is 46. This number could further increase over the coming months if more Fine Gael (male) incumbents decide that they will not be contesting the next general election (in addition to Dinny McGinley). This means that Fine Gael would need to be selecting just around two-thirds of these potential candidate options to ensure they were running at least thirty female candidates at the next general election.

Update: At this point in time (11th August 2015), Fine Gael selection conventions have taken place in twenty one different Dail constituencies (all highlighted by italics) and thirteen female candidates (highlighted in bold) have been selected at these, while four female candidates lost out in selection conventions votes. In a number 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 Fine Gael is unlikely to run extra candidates in some of these constituencies, it is safe to claim that the party now will not run a female candidate in constituencies such as Carlow-Kilkenny, Dublin Central, Dublin Fingal, Dubin North-West, Kerry County, Kildare North, Tipperary, Waterford or Wicklow. With similar revisions now also factored in, the maximum number of potential female candidates has been reviewed downwards to 32. 

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About Adrian Kavanagh

Lecturer in Maynooth University Department of Geography.
This entry was posted in Candidates, Gender, General Election and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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