Enda Kenny intends to have equal number of men and women in next cabinet
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said he intends to have equal numbers of men and women in his next cabinet if he retains power.
Political leaders are being urged to ensure that half of the next ministerial team is female and to make a number of other gender balance commitments ahead of next year's election.
Women voters will be a key demographic in the poll as the country emerges from years of austerity.
Mr Kenny said: "I would like to think that we could have an even split at cabinet level, 50-50 men and women, and I've said that before.
"About 40% of appointments to different boards now are female, which is great, and obviously I have said on many occasions that would be an intention of mine."
The Taoiseach made the commitment in an interview with political correspondents.
Out of the 15 ministers in the cabinet four are women: Joan Burton, Frances Fitzgerald, Jan O'Sullivan and Heather Humphreys.
At the next election, political parties will be obliged to nominate women as 30% of their candidates. Parties who fail to meet this target will face severe financial penalties in terms of cuts to State funding.
The non-partisan Women for Election organisation wants to encourage more females to run for political office.
According to the lobby group, in the 2011 general election only 86 of the 566 candidates running were women (15%). Women won 25 of the 166 Da il seats (15%), with this increasing to 27 (16%) following the 2014 by-elections.
It said: "This is the best representation women have ever had in Dail Eireann, but it is an increase of only 5% in the last 35 years."
Since the foundation of the State in 1918, just 95 women have been elected in Ireland and the Dail has never been less than 84% male, the organisation said.
"Between 1977 and 1992 the percentage of female TDs increased by 8% from 4.1% to 12%, but this progress has since stagnated: only five more women were elected in 2011 than in 1992."