The underrepresentation of women in the Irish political system stems from the lack of female participation in student governance, according to UCD Students’ Union (UCDSU) President, Micheál Gallagher. Today, only one in seven of the SU Presidents in Ireland is female, and Gallagher’s predecessor, Rachel Breslin, was the first female UCDSU President in 15 years.
In order to tackle this issue, UCDSU and Women for Election have announced a unique partnership to increase female involvement in student governance. The initiative will be run through a series of seminars, the first of which will be held on 19th September at 1pm. The aim of these seminars is to engage, motivate and encourage women to become more involved at college level, from class rep to SU sabbatical officer.
“There simply aren’t enough women involved in student politics and we are delighted to work with Women for Election to help change this situation. They do fantastic work in creating a space where women feel they can run for office,” says Gallagher.
He added, UCDSU as a Students’ Union is “breaking new ground this year in getting involved with Women for Election.”
Gallagher addressed the distinct male dominance of the UCDSU in the past saying that, “UCD is a large college and the SU has traditionally been seen as both highly political and male dominated. This year, both myself and the Welfare and Equality Officer, supported by the Union, are determined to broaden the appeal of college politics with a view to encouraging more women to run for college elected office.”
UCDSU Vice-President for Welfare & Equality Cian Dowling said, “I strongly believe in raising our female participation in our organisation. We worked hard this summer both identifying problem areas that have been raised as issues and in creating new partnerships with groups such as Women For Election.”
It is hoped that the initiative could not only have a positive effect on campus politics, but in the Irish political sphere as a whole. “It is intended that, over time, this will change the image of the SU and the nature of its leadership, making it more diverse and representative of the student body.
“Evidence shows that participation in SU politics is a clear indicator of political participation after university, so engaging women at this stage is vital to achieving Women for Election’s mission and the partnership with UCDSU is a natural one.”
SU Gender Equality Coordinator, Rebekah McKinney-Perry, agreed, stating that she welcomed “this fantastic and innovative partnership between UCDSU and Women for Election. The lack of female representation in politics is a national issue and one that is endemic in UCD.”