Irish political parties will have to embrace women or face massive financial penalties under planned new legislation.
The government is to push through a change in the law that forces all political parties to implement a 30 percent gender quota in future general elections.
All state funding for political parties will be cut by 50% if they fail to reach the female quota of 30 percent of candidates.
Environment Minister Phil Hogan is to push the legislation through when he presents it to the government in the coming weeks.
“It’s a groundbreaking political opportunity for the country in terms of increasing particularly the participation rate of women in Irish politics,” said Minister Hogan.
“This is the carrot and the big stick approach. If you don’t deliver you’ll get your funding cut, and it’s quite a serious penalty to be in breach of this particular proposal.
“The threat to cut funding is the only way to concentrate the mind of political parties.”
The new measure will be attached to promised legislation banning corporate donations, likely to be published before the summer recess of the Irish parliament.
Hogan believes Fine Gael have acted as trail blazers for women in Irish politics and doesn’t foresee any opposition to the new legislation.
The Minister added: “Fine Gael efforts to ensure greater participation by women candidates in the 2009 local elections brought us greater results from the electorate.
“So there’s a vested interest on behalf of the political system to ensure there’s a greater balance of gender in terms of participation in Irish politics.
“I brought forward the proposal and obviously women, particularly Minister Joan Burton and Minister Mary Fitzgerald, would be very strongly supportive of it. Cabinet was very supportive.”
The Irish parliament has 166 seats, 25 of which are occupied by women. In the recent general election, approximately 15 percent of the 566 candidates were women.
Statistics show that more than 16 percent of Fine Gael’s candidates were women, with 25 percent from Labor; 14.6 percent from Fianna Fáil and 19.5 percent from Sinn Féin.