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Gildernew to give evidence to joint Committee on women in politics

2 November, 2009

Sinn Féin Agriculture and Rural Development Minister, Michelle Gildernew MP MLA will give evidence to the Joint Committee on the Constitution about the impact of the PR-STV electoral system on the representation of women in the Assembly.

The meeting will take place on Wednesday 4th November at 9.30am in Committee Room 4, Leinster House.

There are currently 18 women elected to the Assembly; representing just 16.7% of the 108 MLAs.

Sinn Féin has 8 of the 18 women MLA’s - Sue Ramsey (Chair of the Employment and Learning Committee), Jennifer McCann (Chair of the Finance and Personnel Committee), Caral Ní Chuilin (Chief Whip), Caitríona Ruane (Minister of Education), Michele Gildernew (Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development), Michelle O'Neill (Deputy Chair of the Health Committee), Claire McGill and Martina Anderson (Policing Board member).

The other female MLA’s are Carmel Hanna, Margaret Ritchie, Dolores Kelly & Mary Bradley (SDLP), Anna Lo & Naomi Long (Alliance), Dawn Purvis (PUP), Arlene Foster, Michelle McIlveen & Iris Robinson (DUP), while the UUP do not have a single woman elected to the Assembly.

Speaking ahead of the meeting Ms Gildernew said:

“Women have a unique contribution to make to political life. They have a different contribution and perspective than men. We must ensure that women play a full role in our democratic institutions and the political life of the nation.

“There is clear evidence that the STV system results in a greater proportion of women being elected. We must also recognise the importance of selection procedures to persuade parties to select women candidates and to run them in winnable seats.

“In the last Assembly election Sinn Fein ran 9 women candidates and brought 8 into the Assembly. For us it was about running strong candidates in winnable seats. Women play a huge role not just within the Assembly team and the Executive but at all levels within the party. But we can and must to more.

“We must also recognise the reality of life inside political parties and that many women may be put off by the confrontational nature of the current political debate.

“Another factor in determining whether women put themselves forward for election and whether once there they stay in politics, is the working hours, particularly for those with children or other caring responsibilities. Anti-social hours have long been a deterrent to women who might otherwise consider a political career.” ENDS

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