The General Election takes place this Friday, and no clear winner has yet emerged throughout the mud-slinging campaign. We challenged five female candidates on the most important issues facing women in Ireland to help us decide on which way to vote. Their responses may just surprise you, says Sinead Ryan.
With more female candidates than ever standing for election this year, gender quotas, despite their mixed acceptance, are clearly having an impact. Political parties stand to lose hundreds of thousands of euro in funding if they don't meet the 30 per cent requirement of females on each ticket. It has led to dissent among some more traditional politicians, who believe that talent is losing out in favour of political correctness, but we prefer to think of it in terms of the famous line: ?Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, except backwards and in high heels.?
We spoke with five female candidates likely to make an impact in General Election 2016 - Catherine Murphy, Jennifer Cuffe, Lucinda Creighton, Deirdre O'Donovan and Regina Doherty. We asked them about a range of topics, including the environment, jobs, housing, healthcare, childcare, the 8th Amendment, and who they see as the next Taoiseach. Here's what Jennifer Cuffe had to say.
Fianna F?il, Wicklow and East Carlow
Jennifer is a family law barrister and county councillor since 2014. She volunteers with SVP and FLAC and is chair of the health and social protection committee on the Ard Comhairle of Fianna F?il.
?There has been a clear failure to create a balanced jobs policy towards the regions. Ninety four per cent of all jobs created in 2014 and 50 per cent of all IDA jobs were in the capital/commuter belt. It is business and entrepreneurs delivering jobs. Fianna F?il is committed to fostering growth by revamping commercial rates, protecting our corporate tax rate, and ensuring SMEs have access to credit to allow their business to grow.?
?The sector is in disarray and we have an unprecedented level of homelessness, with approximately 1,600 children currently living in emergency accommodation. Fianna F?il is committed to opening up home ownership, tackling the social housing waiting list, revitalising the construction sector, and re-asserting the fundamental right to housing for all citizens. This involves getting the state back involved in direct build and taking decisive measures to help revitalise the private sector.?
?We will introduce a progressive tax credit (Childcare Support Credit) for working parents, which would cover 20-40 per cent of a family's costs, depending on income and the age of their child. For parents who do not pay enough tax to avail of the full tax credit return, they will receive a cash subsidy payment for the balance (which could be up to a maximum of €2,000).
?We are committed to ambitious greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets and a climate justice programme to meet our new commitments. We also have to look at further carbon mitigation measures. For example, only eleven per cent of our land is forested compared to 33 per cent across the EU, and afforestation has a huge potential for helping us meet our emission targets. I believe it is hopeful that forests planted since just 1990 already absorb a massive 18 per cent of Irish agriculture's annual greenhouse gas emissions.?
?I believe that before any referendum can take place, there needs to be an honest debate about what would actually replace Article 40.3.3. No woman should have their life put at risk due to pregnancy.?
?I would of course like to see Miche?l Martin as the next Taoiseach.?
This article was originally published in the February issue of IMAGE Magazine.