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PIC: Do You See Anything Wrong With This Picture Of Leo Varadkar's New Cabinet?

By mariemadden

June 21, 2017 at 11:07am

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Following his visit to Downing Street, our new Taoiseach posed for photos with his junior ministers on the steps of Dáil Eireann yesterday.

While we're all well used to seeing our grinning politicians lined-up for a photo opportunity, there was one thing about yesterday's unveiling that stood out a mile.

The glaring lack of women.

Of Leo's new cabinet, just seven of the 34 ministers are female. That's 20%, and three of these are junior ministers.

The gender divide has not gone unnoticed, with Senator Ivana Bacik branding the reshuffle "very disappointing".

According to CSO figures, over half of the population of Ireland is female. So why don't we have gender balance in the corridors of power?

With the Eighth Amendment referendum looking to be one of the biggest topics of the coming political year, it is slightly concerning that only 22% per cent of those in power will be directly affected by the outcome.

As a woman in her 30s, I certainly don't feel that a decision about what I should do with my body should be made by a group of middle-aged men.

For its part, the Fine Gael party defended the line-up, saying that their intent is to increase the representation of women in the Dáil and this "has been done already" - a response branded "offensive" by outgoing Minister Marcella Corcoran-Kennedy.

However, it would be wrong to lay all the blame at Leo's door as the percentage of women in his cabinet mirrors the proportion that were elected by the Irish public in our last election.

Women For Election told The Journal.ie that the lack of female role models in politics has meant that many women don't view a political role as a possible career choice.

“We came across lot of women who wanted to get involved in politics but had never even told anyone before. When they came to the courses they met other women with the same ambition – it’s really about signalling that this is a reasonable ambition.”

The new gender quotas introduced last year will see parties forced to make sure that women form at least 30% of their total nominations or face the risk of forgoing half of their State funding.

It's been a contentious move but this week's developments show that it's as necessary as ever.

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