Letters from Ireland #3

I’ve mostly been listening to news programmes though, and talk radio, which is pretty good although they do go on a bit… Yesterday’s hot topic was the case of a woman councillor from Limerick who had to step down from the local VEC (Vocational Education Committee), on which she had already served for the best part of a decade, after the Ministry of Education intervened to enforce strict gender ratio quotas.
As far as I could make out – although it took the presenter an inordinate length of time to work this out for himself – there are laws in place stating that membership of such boards has to reflect the gender balance of the council. This was obviously designed to ensure that men didn’t take all the plum positions themselves, but in this instance had been interpreted as meaning that on a nine member board, there should be two women, not three, because less than a third of the councillors were women.

Basically it was just a case of bad law drafting – the insertion of the word minimum somewhere would have solved everything – but they strung it out into a discussion of ‘political correctness gone mad’ and ‘hasn’t the Minister of Education got better things to do’ and ‘how useless are the male councillors who got the positions on the board instead of this good woman’ and ‘what do we pay councillors for anyway’? One of those ‘Yes Minister’ stories which will no doubt end up with the Minister having to play host to the aggrieved councillor for a carefully stage-managed cup of tea and the promise of emergency legislation as soon as parliament returns. (Actually, parliament may already have returned – the Irish Cabinet is certainly meeting already).

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