Ivan Yates: Why this won’t be the election to break through the gender glass ceiling

Gender quotas? Give me a break, says Ivan Yates. There's too many male bastions but there is a chance of three female TDs in one Dublin constituency...

Ivan Yates


On paper it looks like there is going to be a breakthrough for women in this General Election. In reality, despite gender quotas there will be just 25 female TDs elected, give or take.

You can be extremely cynical about the way in which the two big parties, in particular, have manipulated the 30% representation of women, simply to get the moolah out of the taxpayer. In other words they simply added from headquarters women who had no track record of electoral success, purely to make sure the millions of euro received from state funding continued.

People who think this election is going to be a game changer haven’t looked at the odds in the constituency betting where many newcomers are really long odds. The best-placed candidate in many cases around the constituencies is a man – gender doesn’t make a whit of difference in regards to people’s voting intention, policy and principle.

The decline of Labour is one reason why we won’t have more female TDs this time. Gender is no protection for those who are swimming with no clothes on when the tide goes out.

If anything, Independent representation will be as strong as it’s ever been in the last few years in Ireland. And there are a large number of women who have great chance of being poll toppers, led by the likes of Clare Daly. But this will not be the election that breaks through the gender glass ceiling.

Anyway 25 seats – here’s how I arrive at that figure…

Gone for a Burton

The Labour losses are very significant. If you look at Wicklow, Anne Ferris (11/2) is set to lose her seat while the two other female candidates in that constituency – Fine Gael’s Avril Cronin (25/1) and Fianna Fail’s Jennifer Cuffe (10/1) – are such long shots it means there is no woman likely to pick up a back seat.

So that’s minus one, for starters.

Over in the Cork North-Central four-seater, Joanna Tuffy (13/8) faces a real battle to retain her seat against Fine Gael’s Frances Fitzgerald. In Cork East, we know Sinn Fein’s Sandra McLellan is not standing, and I believe her seat will be taken by a man, whether it’s an independent, whether it’s Fianna Fail, the top six in the running are all male.

Another Labour loss is coming in Cork North-Central where Kathleen Lynch (6/4) will see here seat taken by a man. Meanwhile, Fine Gael’s Aine Collins (5/6) in the neighbouring constituency of Cork North West is quite likely to be replaced by a man – the Independent John Paul O’Shea (10/11).

Then we have the situation of further losses in the constituency of Dublin West. At the moment Joan Burton, pictured above, (6/4) and Ruth Coppinger (1/8) are the female representatives but the strong likelihood is that the male contingent of Paul Donnelly (1/100) of Sinn Fein and Jack Chambers (1/14) of Fianna Fail will displace one of those and therefore one less woman, which the latest polls support.

Moving elsewhere in terms of further female losses, in Waterford Ciara Conway (7/1) is likely to lose her Labour seat. Some are sayingMary Butler (4/9) of Fine Fail could displace her, but in the first instance her seat will be taken by David Cullanine (1/14) of Sinn Fein. As of now Butler is not assured of a seat so it’s likely to be another female loss.

Similarly, in Limerick City if and when Jan O’Sullivan (4/5) loses her seat, Maurice Quinlivan (1/10) of Sinn Fein is likely to take it – therefore it is a female loss to a male.

Moving up to the midlands to Longford Westmeath, if Fine Gael’s Gabrielle McFadden (6/4) doesn’t hold on, the two possible victors are either the Independent Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran (8/15) or the Sinn Fein candidate Paul Hogan (9/2) – either way there isn’t a female to take her seat. One more down.

In Meath East, I predict it’s going to be very difficult for the female Fine Gael duo of Regina Doherty  (2/7) and Helen McEntee (2/9) to hold both seats in a three-seater. Thomas Byrne (1/25) for Fianna Fail and Darren O’Rourke (5/4) for Sinn Fein are the main competition in an extremely volatile commuter belt constituency. It’s another female loss.

So we are looking at potentially nine losses before you start.


Male bastions…

Meanwhile, there are a number of constituencies with zero female representation at present but the women selected aren’t matched with serious win potential.

In these constituencies I list Wexford and Tipperary where the parties, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, have respectfully added Siobhan Ambrose (25/1) and Marie Murphy (66/1) as gender quota-based, State finance funded additions. They are not realistic prospects for a seat.

Meath West is an all-male three-seater scenario in terms of representation and is unlikely to change. In Limerick County the perspective is all men as is the situation in Sligo Leitrim – I don’t see the Labour senator Susan O’Keeffe (50/1) having any chance.

In Kildare South there is much chat about the two Fionas – that’s Fiona O’Loughlin (5/6) of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael’s Fiona McLoughlin-Healy (2/1) but this all-male representation is likely to continue. Moving on in terms of male bastions, in Dublin Bay North, while it looks like there are potential women candidates in the Independent Averil Power  (3/1) and Fianna Fail’s Deirdre Heney (16/1) in my view all five TDs elected here will be men, which also applies to the Kerry five-seater.

Across in Cork South Central we’re looking at poll toppers such as Michael Martin (1/80), Simon Coveney (1/33), Michael McGrath (1/33) alongside Jerry Buttimer (2/1) and Ciaran Lynch (7/1) with the only possible change of a new TD being Donnchadh O Laoghaire of Sinn Fein – again the place is entirely male.

Similarly, in Donegal it looks like all men, whether Fine Fail get two, Sinn Fein get two or the Independents hold on, the betting is dominated by men.

But I want to move to the more positive territory of where I see 25 female TDs in the next Dail.

So Lucinda Creighton, pictured above, of Renua (1/4) will defeat Fine Gael’s Kate O’Connell (5/6) in Dublin Bay South for a female seat.

In Dublin Fingal, Clare Daly (1/80) and Louise O’Reilly of Sinn Fein (4/9) should see a gain with two women elected. In Dublin Central I believe the two existing women TDs – Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald (1/100) and Independent Maureen O’Sullivan (8/15) will both be re-elected.

In Dublin South Central there is the prospect of three women TDs being elected: the Independent Joan Collins (1/5), sitting Fine Gael TD Catharine Byrne (1/6) and Brid Smith (4/9), the AAA-People Before Profit candidate.

In Dublin South West there could be an additional female TD getting in too. I’m looking at the potential women of four lady candidates where my personal fancy is Sinn Fein’s Sarah Holland.

In Dun Laoghaire, along with Fine Gael’s Mary Mitchell O’Connor (1/25), Mary Hanifan (4/9) will be back for Fianna Fail and that is a gain for women. Meanwhile, Ann Rabbitte (5/6) for Fianna Fail in Galway East is going to survive, as is the sitting TD in Kildare North, the sitting Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy (1/80) where there is an outside chance for Sinn Fein’s Reada Cronin (7/4).

Another Social Democrat, Roisin Shortall (1/33) will hold her seat in Dublin North West, while I’m predicating a new Independent TD will enter the Dail in the shape of Catherine Connelly (4/6). In Cavan-Monaghan the five going for four seats include existing Minister Heather Humphreys (1/7) who can will be joined by Senator Katherine Reilly of Sinn Fein (evens).

In Dublin Rathdown we’re in line for a surprise. One might have thought with the retirement of the Olivia Mitchell there might be no female representation. But Josepha Madigan (1/3) of Fine Gael might be pivotal in getting a surprise here, with the Green Deputy Leader Catherine Martin (9/4) retaining a female seat.

I believe there will be no change in Carlow Kilkenny but the seat held by Ann Phelan (2/1) of Labour should be replaced by Kathleen Funchion (1/7) of Sinn Fein.

The best bet on female TDs…

Earlier in the campaign I was tipping Ann Norton (14/1), a female independent in Clare to get a seat, but it looks like that may not happen. She is actually the difference between 25 and 26 seats in my opinion with Dr Michael Harty a rural GP independent with more of a tail wind behind him. The other gain I would point to is Margaret Murphy O’Mahony of Fianna Fail (8/15) to gain a seat at the expense of Labour’s Michael McCarthy (3/1) in Cork South West.

Other females who’ll be elected will be in Louth: Imelda Munster (1/8) who’s Gerry Adams’ running mate. Her time has come and this will be a new female seat.

In Offaly, Marcella Corcoran Kennedy (1/33), despite the price, is under threat not least from Sinn Fein’s Carol Nolan (10/3), but she will hold on there.

And a gain of a seat for the female-side is Maura Hopkins (odds-on) in Rosscommon Galway for Fine Gael.

Paddy Power is pricing it at 5/6 for 19.5% of seats to go to women which translates as 30.1. I’m saying there’ll be less than that – the target should be 25 so under 19.5% of the vote is the best bet at 5/6.

Is Ivan wrong? Challenge his thinking with the latest Irish General Election odds >

Ivan Yates is a broadcaster for Newstalk and former TD for Wexford who served as Minister for Agriculture. He was also chairman and managing director of Celtic Bookmakers.

What do you think?