I have been considering a career change.
Well, I was for about two minutes. Then I realised I don’t have the energy for Irish politics. Nor do I have the right genitalia, it seems.
See when Leo Varadkar became our super new Taoiseach (Prime Minister) I thought this might be our Justin Trudeau or Emmanuel Macron moment! Oh how wrong I was. Despite being the youngest ever Prime Minister (he’s 38), the first gay PM (who cares, we certainly don’t) and the first not achingly white face (he’s the son of an Indian immigrant), he is, by all accounts, extremely Conservative.
Recent world events have helped me understand this contradiction. And open my mind a bit more.
Not all gay people are liberals.
Some actually voted for Trump!
In the meantime, Varadkar has been quick to display his old fashioned views on life. Whilst appointing his new Cabinet, rather than increasing diversity he swiftly demoted one of the five (out of fifteen positions) female Cabinet Ministers. Mary Mitchell O’Connor was, it seems, the sacrificial lamb. Now word on the street is she wasn’t fairing well in her role as Housing Minister. I should note housing in Ireland is a joke. Rent has sky rocketed, house prices are quietly soaring again and homelessness appears to be at an all time high. So maybe fresh blood was needed. Yet, it is questionable that she was the only minister to be demoted. And Varadkar’s steely campaign manager, Eoghan Murphy, was nicely promoted to the role of, yes, you guessed it, Housing Minister.
Oh you need some mighty big kahuna’s for politics!
Varadkar also demoted Junior Ministers, Marcella Corcoran Kennedy and Dara Murphy. When only 7 out of 34 ministerial positions are occupied by women, it can’t go unnoticed that he has demoted more female ministers than male. I won’t even depress you with the lack of diverse faces such is the overbearing whiteness of Irish political life. However, Fine Gael would you lead you to believe it has quite a diverse cabinet. People from as far as Donegal and from Wexford, it seems. People of different sexuality (2 gay people out of 34) and even an atheist! Oh we are ahead of the curve. What other countries consider standard fare, we delight in our ‘diversity’.
Nevertheless, what does it say about Ireland that only 7 of the 34 ministerial positions are filled by women? Even if that number represents over 55% of elected female officials. Looking at it on a broader scale, Irish female politicians represent a lowly figure of 22%. To quote Trudeau, when asked about his diverse cabinet, he simply replied “this is 2015″‘.
Even worse then. It’s 2017.
So, does it surprise me there are not more women in Irish politics?
When Fine Gael TD Mary Mitchell O’Connor is told she wont get a dressing down after expressing disappointment for being demoted and concern at the cabinet’s lack of diversity, then no it doesn’t.
When Fine Gael TD Kate O’Connell is told she will be spoken to after her ‘choir boys’ comment, then no it doesn’t.
Even when the Irish media ridicules Fine Gael TD and Tanaiste, Frances Fitzgerald, for keeping up with the big boys on Varadkar’s election day and ensuring herself a prime position in the crowd (and ultimately the cabinet) then no it doesn’t.
However, there’s a common thread in the above. All these ministers are from a large party, Fine Gael. Of course they have been subject to greater scrutiny recently due to the change of guard. But it got me thinking. Maybe there is more of a stranglehold on you within larger parties? While there are many sacrifices and lost opportunities in politics, is it possible that you have more room for individualism within a smaller party? More opportunity to put yourself forward, fight for what you believe in without being clipped behind the ear for stepping out of line.
I was recently heartened by a speech given by opposition TD Ruth Coppinger. During the resignation speeches for Taoiseach Enda Kenny, rather than plamas him with tales of his greatness, she took the opportunity to highlight his continued failure to protect the women of Ireland. I’m sure her decision not to toe the ‘happy speech’ line for a departing Taoiseach was approved by her party. And of course they are a party that are pro-choice. Nonetheless an opportunity to throw away the rose tinted glasses and actually speak on behalf of the people of Ireland should never be missed. In particular when it is female voices that are so often extinguished.
Maybe a career in politics isn’t so far fetched after all.