Local elections: Record numbers of women run for council seats

Total of 655 women are running across every local electoral area bar three ahead of the June 7th vote, says nonprofit body

A record number of women are running for council seats across the country in the upcoming local elections.

According to figures supplied by Women for Election, a non-profit organisation campaigning to increase the number of women in elected office, there are 655 women running across every local electoral area (LEA), bar three, ahead of the June 7th vote. This figure represents 32 per cent of all candidates running.

In the 2019 local elections, 561 women ran for a seat, while in 2014, 440 women sought election.

Upwards of 50 women candidates running for council seats across Dublin gathered at City Hall on Dame Street on Sunday morning, marking the unveiling of the Women for Election campaign for the elections.


“Women, despite the challenges of getting into politics, are stepping up in ways never before to represent their communities,” Brian Sheehan, chief executive of Women for Election, said on Sunday morning.

Women from across the political spectrum running for seats on Dublin City Council, Fingal County Council, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council and South Dublin County Council came together in a symbolic gesture marking the record numbers of women seeking election. All Government and Opposition parties were represented, as well as Independent candidates.

Ireland is currently 103rd in the world when it to comes women’s representation in national politics.

At local level, Ireland ranks in sixth-last place in the European Union. There are currently no women councillors in 41 of the 166 LEAs that make up the 31 city and county councillors across the country.

“There aren’t enough women at the decision-making tables in our politics,” said Flor MacCarthy, training and development co-ordinator at Women for Election. “We need to reshape our democracy. We see these local elections as an opportunity to do that.

“Everyone has a choice, to look at the women who are running, find the women that match their ideas – there are so many competent, capable women running,” said Mr Sheehan. “Our politics will be better if there are more women.”

Mr Sheehan acknowledged a number of “shocking” instances in recent weeks where election candidates – including women – have faced abuse while on the campaign trial. In one recent incident, Janet Horner, a Green Party councillor for the north inner city, spoke of how she was hit and threatened while out canvassing and hanging posters.

Mr Sheehan said although the majority of Irish people are respectful to candidates, there is an element of targeted abuse in political life at present.

“We know from all the research that’s out there, that there’s a gender aspect to the violence, political violence is directed more at women. We also know that it’s directed more at people of colour and women of colour, in particular,” he said.

Social media has a lot to answer when it comes to abuse aimed at those running for public office, Mr Sheehan said. “Our politics has reshaped itself in the current environment of social media.”

“It can’t be left untrammelled on social media, that kind of abuse, because we all lose out when our democracy is under challenge, when people are unwilling to step forward because of perceptions of fear and abuse.

“Collectively, all of us, Government, politicians, political parties, party members, and the public have to figure out – how do we bring a bit of civility back into politics; otherwise, we all lose,” he said.

Fiachra Gallagher

Fiachra Gallagher

Fiachra Gallagher is an Irish Times journalist