Gail McElroy and Michael Marsh

Trinity College, Dublin


Abstract: At no time in history has the number of women elected to Dáil Eireann surpassed fourteen percent of the total membership.  In spite of significant social changes, the use of a proportional electoral system and no obvious bias among voters, the number of female Teachtaí Dála (TDs) remains stubbornly low by international standards. This paper examines why, if the prospect for women’s election are relatively good, so few women end up in public office. Using both aggregate and survey data, we explore the issues of incumbency advantage, the electorate’s attitudes and the candidates differing experiences of the political process.  The evidence suggests that, all else equal, female candidates have as good a chance of getting elected as their male counterparts and the real difficulties in achieving equitable representation lie elsewhere, in the candidate emergence and nomination stages of the election game.