Fine Gael defends gender equality record following criticism of ministerial appointments

Campaigners have expressed disappointment that only seven of 34 ministers are women

Fine Gael defends gender equality record following criticism of ministerial appointments

Photo:Leah Farrell/

Fine Gael has defended its record on gender equality, amid criticism over Leo Varadkar's ministerial appointments.

It comes after the Taoiseach unveiled his junior ministers yesterday. Including junior and senior positions, a total of seven out of his 34 ministers are women.

Some campaigners have expressed frustration with the continued prevalence of male ministers, particularly in the wake of international leaders such as Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron committing to more gender-balanced cabinets.

Orla O'Connor of the National Women's Council of Ireland claimed that "we have not witnessed any movement at all in terms of the number of women in senior decision making positions in our Government".

On High Noon this afternoon, former Tánaiste Joan Burton observed: "Yesterday, by our new all-singing, all-dancing [...] starstruck Taoiseach... it went a step backwards.

"He's an intelligent and hard-working man, and he has a lot capacity. But he was not at his best yesterday or the day before when he was making the appointments."

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Claire McGing - specialist in gender politics at Maynooth University - described the numbers as disappointing.

She said: "It's not reflective of the population. It's not reflective of the parliament." 

While acknowledging that Leo Varadkar was "in a constrained position" when it came to appointments for a number of practical & political reasons, she also added that he did emphasise the idea of a 'republic of opportunity' during the recent leadership campaign.

In a statement this lunchtime, Fine Gael says the current Government has "done more than any other party before it" when it comes to gender equality in politics.

The party argues: "Of the 11 Fine Gael female TDs, six are either Ministers or Junior Ministers, including the Super Junior Minister, meaning 55% of Fine Gael female TDs occupy senior Government positions. Of the five Fine Gael female TDs who are not Ministers, four are first time TDs.

"Fine Gael has more women elected to the Dáil than any other Party. However there is no room for complacency and we continue to work to encourage more women into politics."

The statement adds: "Fine Gael is completely committed to increasing the number of women actively participating in politics and will continue to seek to boost the number of women at all levels of the Party."