Cllr Mary Rose Desmond.

'A very positive move'

The chair of Cork City Council Women’s Caucus has said the passing of a bill which provides maternity leave for councillors is an important milestone for women in politics.

The Minister of State for Local Government and Planning at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Peter Burke TD, has welcomed the passing of the Local Government (Maternity Protection and Other Measures for Elected Members in Local Authorities) Bill 2022, which passed through both Houses of the Oireachtas.

As part of the bill, elected members availing of maternity leave may nominate a temporary substitute to undertake the role and duties of a councillor for a maximum of 42 weeks, in line with the statutory leave afforded to employees.

Fianna Fail Cllr Mary Rose Desmond said: “It’s been way overdue. But at least there has been massive momentum in the last 12-18 months to see this across the line and the commitment to have it done by the end of the year.

“It was a very positive move but shouldn’t have taken as long for it to happen. The idea that a councillor couldn’t take maternity leave and would just be marked absent is just crazy in this day and age,” she said.

“A key part of this, is if you want to encourage women to be involved in politics, you must have these mechanisms in place so that its not an additional deterrent. It will always be women who require maternity options, so they are vital if we want more women involved in local politics.”

Minister of State Burke said: “I am delighted that this progressive bill has been passed by the Oireachtas. The legislation gives, for the first time, an entitlement of maternity leave to local councillors.

“The absence of maternity leave has long been identified as an obstacle to the participation of women in local government. In the 21st century, I found this absence was unacceptable. This bill rectifies that anomaly.”

Minister Burke went on to say: “The provision of a temporary substitute will allow for an elected member to undertake a ‘clean break’ from work. It ensures that councillors can take full maternity leave and are under no unnecessary pressure to return to work ahead of time or to be available for votes or meetings.”

This bill eliminates one of the identified barriers that prevents women from getting involved in local government, by introducing formal maternity leave for local authority elected members.