Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

15.00 7 Dec 2020


Share this article


The absence of maternity leave for public representatives has been labelled as 'ridiculous' and 'outrageous' by TD Holly Cairns.

The issue is in the spotlight after Justice Minister Helen McEntee revealed over the weekend that she is pregnant.

It makes her the first Cabinet minister in the history of the State to be pregnant while in office.

Advertisement

Speaking on Lunchtime Live, Social Democrat TD Holly Cairns said Minister McEntee's announcement is an important moment, but shows how the law needs to change on maternity leave.

Lack of maternity leave for politicians is 'ridiculous' and 'outrageous' - Cairns

00:00:00 / 00:00:00

    

Deputy Cairns previously raised the issue in the Dáil, with Taoiseach Micheál Martin agreeing that maternity and paternity leave should be available to politicians.

Speaking today, the Social Democrats TD said: "I'd like to congratulate Minister McEntee... [she] always stood out to me in Irish politics as a younger woman, and [now] likely to be the first minister at Cabinet to give birth.

"She's really leading the way and setting an important example.

"If there were more women at the decision-making tables, would this be the case? If there were maternity provisions for TDs, would there be more women at the decision-making table? It's kind of a chicken and egg scenario."

She said provisions should be in place for parental leave more generally, not just maternity leave.

However, she said maternity leave is still something that is much needed - and that the situation facing TDs and senators sets a very bad example for society at large.

She explained: "What are the provisions at the moment? Unfortunately, there aren't any.

"When I first got into Cork County Council, speaking to some of the women there who'd had children while being a public representative... they had had to take sick leave, which is just insulting... ridiculous, ridiculous carry-on."

'Glaringly obvious barrier for women'

Deputy Cairns said a bill was put forward for maternity leave for local authority representatives back in 2017, but it has since lapsed.

She noted that currently only 36 of the 160 TDs are women, which she suggested is a "disgrace".

She explained: "We can't scratch our heads after every election and say 'I wonder why we haven't achieve better equality again'.

"There's a glaringly obvious barrier for women here.

"Other countries have done it - in some member states, there's a system which allows for a substitution for members of parliament during maternity or parental leave. That's possible in Sweden, Portugal, the Netherlands, Denmark and other places."

She acknowledged it is a 'tricky thing' to legislate for, but we need to start thinking about how to do it.

She said ongoing efforts to introduce remote voting could also potentially be adapted to allow for those on maternity leave.

Deputy Cairns said she herself would be happy to 'pair' with Minister McEntee in Dáil votes if there's no maternity bill in place - meaning Deputy Cairns also wouldn't vote while the Justice Minister is absent, in order to ensure voting balances out.

She said she hopes there'd be cross-party support for any push for maternity leaves provisions, saying it's "ridiculous that we're even having this conversation".

Main image: File photo of Holly Cairns. Picture by: Leah Farrell/RollingNews

Share this article


Read more about

Holly Cairns Maternity Leave TDs

Most Popular

Live: Title

Now playing

00:00:00 / 00:00:00
Added to queue
Removed from queue

On Air

Share

Share


Up next

Episode title
Show
Duration

You currently have no podcasts in your queue.

Go to podcasts

On Air

Newstalk Breakfast

Newstalk Breakfast

07:00-09:00

Share

Up next

THE PAT KENNY SHOW

THE PAT KENNY SHOW

09:00-12:00

Share

LUNCHTIME LIVE

LUNCHTIME LIVE

12:00-14:00

Share

MONCRIEFF

MONCRIEFF

14:00-16:00

Share

THE HARD SHOULDER

THE HARD SHOULDER

16:00-19:00

Share

OFF THE BALL

OFF THE BALL

19:00-22:00

Share

THE TOM DUNNE SHOW

THE TOM DUNNE SHOW

22:00-00:00

Share

BEST OF NEWSTALK

BEST OF NEWSTALK

00:00-06:00

Share

BREAKFAST BRIEFING

BREAKFAST BRIEFING

06:00-06:30

Share

BREAKFAST BUSINESS

BREAKFAST BUSINESS

06:30-07:00

Share

NEWSTALK BREAKFAST

NEWSTALK BREAKFAST

07:00-09:00

Share

00:00:00 / 00:00:00

Share on