Sinn Féin TD for Co. Clare Violet-Anne Wynne has spoken out against the current lack of provision for members of the Oireachtas to take maternity leave.
Deputy Wynne is expecting her sixth child at present and is one of few women in the Dáil who have had to navigate the lack of legislation in place to support women in such circumstances.
Teachta Wynne said:
“The Oireachtas is still gendered and that’s a conversation we need to have as a nation. Sinn Féin have taken a lead on gender equal representation and have more female candidates and representatives than any other party. Only 36 TDs out of 160 of the 33rd Dáil are female, and one-third of them are Sinn Féin.
“The fact that a sitting member of the Dáil has become pregnant so few times in the history of the state exposes how little we have tried to reconcile being a mother and being a politician.
“For a large part of our nation’s history, these two things were mutually exclusive and even until now, there is a significant number of people who feel that they do not match up.
“The consuming nature of serving as a TD or Senator can be off-putting for those who have families to take care off, which traditionally has been women. So although there is no explicit prohibition of women in politics – the lifestyle and culture can be implicitly exclusive.
“Even just the late hours involved in the voting bloc, when sometimes we are expected to be in the chambers until 11 or 12 at night. This pace of work and expectation of long hours, sometimes more than 15 hours is inadvertently preventing women from accessing the highest levels of government.
“In 2018, Fianna Fáil, while in opposition proposed a Bill to rectify this gap. However, it provoked such contestation as to whether such a change would require constitutional amendment and need a referendum.
“However, Article 16.3 of the constitution states that there shouldn’t be any disability placed on members on the grounds of sex.
“If there are no maternity provisions in place, that’s basically saying to women ‘you can work here, but there’s no facilitation for your biology’, there’s been a legal void here for years and actually tackling the issue, keeps getting kicked down the road.
“As well, if we look at Article 40, there is a right to equality, but with due regard to differences, be it social, moral, physical, and that is the reason why maternity leave is constitutional.
“It’s another form of gender bias in our State and particularly in the decision-making structures of our State.
“It demonstrates blatant hypocrisy; how can we expect multinational companies and boards to level up their gender parity when the same does not apply in the Oireachtas?”