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IRISH DÁIL ELECTION RESULTS 2002
Despite hopes that the number of women TDs would increase, partly as there was considerable media awareness of the issue during the first week of the campaign and the National Women's Council of Ireland launched a campaign to encourage the election of women candidates, women's gains at the 2002 election were small. There are 22 women TDs out of 166, or 13 percent. This is a minor improvement over 1997 in which the number of women elected (20) did not increase over 1992. Table 1 below shows the results of this election while those of 1997 are shown in Table 2.
While the overall picture is potentially one of slight improvement, the picture is more pessimistic for the two main parties. Fianna Fáil's parliamentary party has a lowest gender balance than in the previous Dáil (just under 9 percent) while Fine Gael has its smallest percentage of women TDs in twenty-five years (6 percent). Among Fine Gael's numerous electoral casualties were Deirdre Clune, Frances Fitzgerald, and former Justice Minister and deputy leader Nora Owen, who hinted that she may resume her political career in European politics. Another high profile veteran to lose her seat, but more surprising, was Public Enterprise Minister Mary O'Rourke, the only cabinet minister defeated. Fianna Fáil's redistribution of boundaries in Westmeath and a tight vote-splitting arrangement with her running mate combined to help end her twenty-year long Dáil career. Recently she had been tipped as a likely Tánaiste in the event of a Fianna Fáil majority government but now seems a possible candidate for Cathaoirleach of the Seanad, as one of the Taoiseach's eleven nominees. Another defeated Fianna Fáil incumbent was Marian McGennis, defeated in Dublin South Central after having represented Dublin Central for one term.
However these five losses were offset by the return to the Dáil of two former women TDs and the election of six other new women deputies. Labour's Joan Burton, a former minister of state, and Kathleen Lynch both returned to the Dáil after a five-year absence and have helped Labour achieve an unprecedented one-third gender balance. The Progressive Democrats maintained their 50-50 gender balance with the election of Mae Sexton on her third attempt in Longford-Roscommon, and Fiona O'Malley, daughter of party founder Des O'Malley, in Dun Laoghaire. (Labour and the Progressive Democrats were the only parties to elect a higher proportion of women than they had nominated.) Other newcomers include Councillor Máire Hoctor (Fianna Fáil, Tipperary North), and Councillor Olwyn Enright (Fine Gael, Laois Offaly), who at 27 is the youngest woman TD. Finally there was one new independent elected, poll-topper Marian Harkin in Sligo-Leitrim, who joins Wicklow's Mildred Fox, re-elected by 19 votes after a long recount. Aside from Mae Sexton these new TDs are all first-time candidates for the Dáil. Although the Greens and Sinn Féin enjoyed their best-ever election results there will be no women among the newly-enlarged contingents of Sinn Féin and Green deputies. A list of all women members of the 29th Dáil is available on the Observatory of our website, along with biographical details. CAWP will also be studying the voting results of this election for any gender patterns.
Among the issues to be considered by parties in the next Dáil they may wish to examine the causes of the collapse of the momentum achieved by women in politics in the 1990s and how this might be rectified before the next election. As discussed earlier on this site most of the parties' acknowledged the importance of fostering greater equality in public life in their manifestos, and we hope that their concern for this issue will continue past the campaign. In the meantime we shall be waiting to see how women fare in the new ministerial appointments expected next week and the Senate election, which must be held before the end of July.
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