Belfast Telegraph

Justin Trudeau and Leo Varadkar keen to get more women into politics

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is setting a target for 20 women to win seats for Fine Gael in the next election.

Amid criticism over his cabinet appointments and the lack of more women in senior ministerial positions in Government, Mr Varadkar said he sought advice from Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau on the issue.

Mr Trudeau has a 50:50 gender balance among his ministers and has described himself as a feminist.

Mr Varadkar defended his promotions, adding there are 12 female TDs who support the Fine Gael minority Government, 10 of whom have ministries or chair Oireachtas committees.

The Taoiseach said he believes diversity leads to better decision making and that diversity is about more than gender.

"We should try to have a government and a parliament that looks like the country that it tries to represent," he said.

And outlining his ambitions for the next election, he added he wants to get more women to run for parliament and win seats over the next few years.

"Fine Gael already has more female TDs than any other party at 11," he said.

"But I want it to be much higher.

"I'd like it to be 50:50 but certainly at least 20 after the next general election thus giving me more scope to promote even more women than are promoted already.

"That's very much the space I want to be in."

Mr Varadkar added: "Being asked whether you are a feminist or not can often be a trick question because I think other people have to judge that of you, not to make that decision for yourself.

"Certainly if feminism is defined as supporting equal opportunity between men and women, which I do, then I consider myself a feminist but I totally accept that other people may have a different definition of that and therefore not agree."

Mr Trudeau said it takes a deliberate effort to encourage women into frontline politics and he said he encouraged Mr Varadkar to get to gender balance.

He said: "When you ask a women if she'll step for and run her first question is really, 'do you think I should, do you think I can, am I qualified enough?'

"When you ask a man to run for politics his first question is 'well what took you so long to ask me?'"

Mr Trudeau added: "Getting more women into positions of power and authority and success is not just the right thing to do it's the smart thing to do and that's something we both agreed on."

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