Dr Neil Matthews (QUB)
This presentation outlines key findings from research on party candidate selection procedures and their impact on the number of women selected to contest elections in Northern Ireland. Relatively little is known of both the nature of the selection methods adopted by Northern Ireland’s main political parties and their role in producing existing levels of political gender inequality. This presentation addresses both these gaps in our understanding. Firstly, an overview of the current procedures adopted by the political parties is provided. This overview also accounts for recent changes to the parties’ selection methods and consider the implications such reform might have for female representation. Secondly, using testimony from party representatives, the presentation argues that political gender inequality in Northern Ireland is better explained by ‘supply-side’ factors (the number of women seeking selection) than ‘demand-side’ factors (the nature of the parties’ selection methods). It highlights those factors which serve to produce the weak supply of women candidates. Linking the analysis to the Assembly and Executive Review Committee’s recent report on ‘Women in Politics and the Northern Ireland Assembly’ (2015), the presentation concludes, outlining some feasible strategies to address political gender inequality in Northern Ireland.