Alliance Party MP Naomi Long
There are those that might counter with the mention of the PSNI 's 50/50 scheme that enforced a 50% Catholic and 50% 'Other' workforce, however that was a necessarily evil due to the damaging legacy and horrors we inflicted upon one another during The Troubles. Only by enforcing this could we start to counter the negative attitudes towards policing within the Catholic and Nationalist communities, however it may have cost the PSNI the respect of more hard-line Loyalist and working class Protestant communities.
I believe that quotas would remove the accountability of political parties in regards to their policies on equality and the progression of women's rights, as they would be able to spout that they are progressive, when in reality their hand is being forced. What happens if an all female political party returns to the scene, similar to the Women's Coalition? Would they then have to make sure that 50% of their candidates are male and therefore undermine the very nature of their own political and social message?
I agree that quotas for women in executive level jobs in the private and public sector is a good thing, as it encourages a more balanced decision making, at least that's the impression that it gives, and I think it should be mandatory. However, politics is not an ordinary job, it is the means by which you are given a job to represent those who agree with what you say, what you think and what you do, not by what you sell, who you trade with or how cheap your goods are.
Some of the brightest and most talented women in this country aren't politicians, and vice-versa. Just because there is a shortage of women in politics does not mean we need to introduce restrictive quotas that force political parties to pander to a political doctrine of false equality. More women, or more men, or more ethnic minorities, or LGBT members of the NI Assembly does not mean better politics. It doesn't matter what their gender is, what matters are their policies, what they say on the issues that matter and how they deal with them.
I might seem a bit out of touch or retrogressive in saying what I am saying, however I feel that women, just like men, deserve the chance to be elected on their own merit and note demeaned and undermined by Government quotas. I would like to see more women in politics, but I want to see the right women in politics. Independent voices who can challenge the male dominated worlds of the public and private sector, women who can inspire younger women into making a difference and being an inspiration who won't be under the thumb of male dominated party executives.
There is no guarantee that more women in politics would mean more progressive politics. All party's have lines their representatives must toe, usually laid down by men, and women will toe those lines, too. Of course I want to see more women and young people in politics, but forcing them to be in politics won't make things better. What if we had 50% men and 50% women? It wouldn't make a difference if party lines remained stagnant. We need to challenge societal attitudes to the role of women, why they are an important and integral part of how politics can move forward and then we will start to see a natural evolution of the political system.
We need to look past the gender of the candidate and start voting for who represents what we want to see in Northern Ireland. If you want marriage equality, vote for the parties that are fighting for it, if you want a better health system, vote for the parties who are going to bring that about, don't vote for a candidate based on whether they are a man or a woman, that just isn't smart politics.