Honeymoon’s over! Ireland’s bizarre new coalition government ALREADY facing controversy

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Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin was elected as the country’s new taoiseach (prime minister) on Saturday, heading a coalition with Leo Varadkar’s Fine Gael. The two parties were forced to join forces following a surprising election surge for leftist Irish nationalists Sinn Fein. It meant neither of the traditional centrist parties with enough support to govern on its own. They are joined in the coalition by the Greens. Mr Martin is expected to step aside halfway through the five-year term to allow to allow outgoing leader Mr Varadkar to return to the post.

But the formation of the new coalition Government over the weekend has already sparked fury among women’s rights groups with the appointment of just four Cabinet ministers.

These are Minister for Justice Helen McEntee, Education Minister Norma Foley, Minister for Rural Affairs Heather Humphreys and Minister for Culture, Arts, Media, Tourism and Sport Catherine Martin.

Ciairín de Buis, chief executive of Women for Election said: “It is disappointing that once again a Government has missed the opportunity to appoint a balanced Cabinet.

“Just 22 women have held full Cabinet ranks since the foundation of the State. That’s not good enough.

“It’s not enough to say there aren’t enough women in the Dáil to appoint a balanced cabinet.

“This isn’t inevitable, it’s not like the sun setting every evening – there aren’t enough women in the Dáil because of systematic barriers to their full participation in Irish political life.

“We need political leadership to see change across all levels of politics; this was a missed opportunity to see more women at Cabinet level.

“While it is very welcome that two women have been appointed as ‘super juniors’, I’ve no doubt that both women and many others would have been more than capable of serving in a senior Cabinet role.”

Ms de Buis added although nine of the Mr Martin’s 11 Seanad (upper house) appointees are women is a “positive development, it also shows up the gaps in Irish politics because if there was no problem finding those nine women to take those roles, it would make you question why the same can’t be done elsewhere”.

She said: “We need quotas at a local level. We need more women, in all our diversity, across all levels of politics.

“All of the women appointed to the Seanad this weekend are very capable. But if the Seanad is the only arena where there is full female representation it won’t ripple out across all levels of politics.

“We know the local elections are in the calendar and the Government should begin planning for this.”

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The National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) also lashed out at the “repeatedly low number of women in Cabinet”.

NWCI director Orla O’Connor said: “It is really disappointing that in 2020 we will still only have four women as Cabinet Ministers.

“The current make-up of the Cabinet is a direct result of the missed opportunity by the two main political parties to run sufficient numbers of women on electable seats during the last general election.

“Four women do not even meet the current quota of 30 per cent where we can begin to address gender balance, let alone the desired 50/50 split that has been achieved in many other countries across the world.

“It will be crucial now that all Ministers promote women’s equality over the next Dáil term. The decisions they make in both appointments to senior decision-making bodies and the policies they implement must show a renewed commitment to advancing women’s rights.”

Mr Martin was elected by 93 votes to 63 on Saturday after also securing the support from some independent MPs.

Deputy Prime Minister Mr Varadkar was named Trade Minister, while Finance Minister Pashcal Donohoe and Foreign Minister Simon Coveney retained their positions.

The new coalition came about after Sinn Fein shocked the political establishment in February’s election by securing more votes than the opposition parties.

It now has 37 seats in the 160-seat parliament, which is the same number as Fianna Fail and two more than Fine Gael.

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald quickly sent a huge warning to the two parties, and said: “You will no longer get it all your own way.”

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