Ireland Democracy, devolution and governance, Welfare and equalities

Record number of women set to contest Irish local elections 2024

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Photo Brian Farrell

This article, from See Her Elected, analyses the current landscape for female local election candidates in Ireland, in the lead-up to the 2024 Irish local elections and highlights how their initiative has created a gateway for women in rural Ireland into local politics.

See Her Elected is a feminist, community-led, rural Ireland initiative to support women into political life. The programme is managed by Longford Women’s Link and is an initiative between them and 50:50 North West and is funded by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government. In 2021, See Her Elected won the Democracy category of the Innovation in Politics Award, which recognises projects from across Europe that have the courage to break new ground to find innovative solutions for today’s challenges.

Almost 40% of female local election candidates have availed of training & support from See Her Elected

A record number of female candidates (677) are set to contest this year’s Irish local elections, due in part to the training and support from See Her Elected, a Government funded programme which has provided a gateway for women in rural Ireland into local politics.

See Her Elected

The world of politics may have become an increasingly toxic space in recent times, but instead of running for the hills Mná na hÉireann are marching towards a ballot paper near you on June 7th. It has, however, been a slow and steady march to tackle this deeply entrenched pattern of a lack of female representation and it may take a number of election cycles to reach any sort of 50/50 parity.

Across the EU27, Ireland (23.1%) has the 6th lowest rate of female participation in Lower House Parliaments (Dáil Eireann) and the situation is not much better in local government. Currently, women only hold 26% of the county council seats around the country, but this figure is skewed by the higher percentage of female councillors in urban areas such as Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown, where there are 19 women out of 40 councillors or Fingal with 15 women out of 40 councillors. The picture is very different, however, in rural Ireland-only 4 out of 18 councillors in Co Roscommon are women, while there are only 3 female councillors out of 18 in Sligo and Leitrim. Since 1925 there have only ever been 11 women elected to Roscommon County Council.

So why is it so important that we encourage more women into politics? The council chamber should look more like a microcosm of the society it represents. This will benefit all of society as it will hopefully make for more rounded and balanced decision-making. County Councils have a say in the places where we live, work, and relax whether that’s affordable housing, environmental issues, road repairs, provision of playgrounds or leisure facilities or the arts – decisions made at county council level affect our everyday life, so it is crucial that women play an equal part in that decision-making process.

Ger Rogers Photo.

Following the recent close of nominations, 677 women have declared their intention of running as candidates in this year’s local elections, accounting for 31% of the overall number of candidates. This is a marked increase since 2009, when female candidates accounted for just 17.2%, and also in 2019, when women made up 28.4% of overall candidates.

We have cross-referenced our own database to the Returning Officer’s Notice of Polls in each Local Authority, and while the names of 681 women will appear on ballot papers this June, 3 women are running in multiple Local Electoral Areas, which means there are 677 actual female candidates in real terms.

We have also launched a Live Local Election Tracker which tracks the number of female candidates on a county-by-county basis from the 2014 local elections to the current 2024 Local Elections.

A breakdown of See Her Elected’s statistics show that almost 40% of the total number of female candidates running for election this year availed of our support, training, or resources.

See Her Elected’s statistics show that the highest number of female candidates are running in the Dublin and commuter belt area, with female candidates accounting for 45% in Dun Laoghaire Rathdown, 38.3% in Dublin City, and 38.7% in South Dublin. County Roscommon has the lowest number of female candidates at just 16% while in County Mayo where there are currently only two sitting female County Councillors out of 30, only 19% of candidates for this year’s local elections are female.

Only 3 out of the sitting 18 councillors in County Leitrim are women but the county is bucking the trend for Local Elections 2024, with women accounting for 37% of local election candidates there.

Cabra/Glasnevin has the highest number of female candidates of any local electoral area in the country, with 10 women running out of a total of 21 candidates. Both Kinnegad and Portlaoise local electoral areas also feature high numbers of female candidates, with 9 women running in each area.

A record number of women (106) or 15% are running as Independents in this year’s Local Elections. Sinn Féin is the party with the highest number of female candidates (150) or 22% followed by Fine Gael accounting for 14% of female candidates (98); Fianna Fáil at 13% (90); Green Party at 9.6% (65); Labour at 6.6% (45); Social Democrats at 5.7% (39); Aontú account for 3.6% of female candidates (25); People Before Profit-Solidarity at 3.2% (22). Smaller parties account for 37 female candidates or 5.5%.

Ger Rogers Photo.

We are extremely proud and humbled to have played an instrumental role in creating a gateway for women in rural Ireland into local politics through our free online election workshops and the publication of Ireland’s first-ever ‘Guide to Running in the Local Elections’.

From a modest base back in May 2000, when just 46 women registered for online workshops, See Her Elected continued to gain traction. To date, over 1,000 women from every county in Ireland have registered for our training modules. Some of the women who attended our training are working as campaign managers for candidates, while others wanted to learn more about local government.

Since 2020, See Her Elected has also engaged with thousands of women across the country through our in-person events including seminars, local authority collaborations, secondary school workshops and communications masterclasses with political party women’s networks and caucuses.

See Her Elected has teamed up with Women for Election and An Garda Síochána to launch a new guide for candidates running in the Local and European Elections with a focus on their safety in the election campaigns. Click here to find the guide



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