When Michelle Bradley took her seat on Buncrana Town Council three years ago next month, she was the only woman elected.
The Fine Gael councillor believes there are barriers preventing women and young people from participating in Irish political life. She cites quotas as one possible method of overcoming these.
She said: “Politics is undoubtedly a male dominated environment. If more women came forward and got involved, others would definitely follow suit. I think quotas have a role to play in this process.
“Worldwide there are 100 countries using some form of electoral quotas. Fine Gael has adopted a policy of mandatory quotas. It is testament to the party’s philosophy of involving more women in local politics that I was asked to run for election.
Ms Bradley added: “If things continue as they are at present, it will take Ireland’s body politic 370 years to achieve 50/50 gender balance. We need to encourage women. We must support them to feel they belong within political parties. Although, I find it very positive that for the first time in the history of the State, our top three legal posts are held by women.”
She was referring to Chief Justice Susan Gagery-Denham, Attorney General Máire Whelan and Director of Public Prosecutions Claire Loftus.
The Umricam teacher of Irish and Spanish is also keen to get more young people politically active.
She said: “I think young people are beginning to feel they have a contribution to make to society. This is evident from their membership of student councils, including Inishowen Youth Council and Donegal Youth Council. These organisations give young people a voice and a taste of what it is like to take part in elections. Hopefully this political awareness will continue when they become adults.”
Councillor Bradley attributes her burgeoning political career to the influence of her Fine Gael orientated family. The daughter of Danny and Patricia (née McKinney, from Derry) she said Bernard McGuinness and Joe McHugh were regular visitors to their home.
She said: “My father has canvassed for Fine Gael for the past 30 years. When I was asked to stand for election, I took a year to reflect on the matter and discussed it with my mum and dad and my family.
“When I finally took the plunge, I really enjoyed canvassing. The camaraderie and friendship among my party colleagues was great. I was delighted John Ryan got elected to Donegal County Council.”
A graduate of NUI Galway, Ms Bradley sits on Buncrana Town Council’s Joint Policing Committee and the VEC Education Committee.
She said: “I feel community policing, promoting positive relations between the Garda and the citizens of the town, is very important.
“I also think the recent postponement of the three-school-campus for Buncrana is not a final decision. I am confident we will secure an educational campus for the schools concerned within the short term.”
Michelle Bradley is unequivocal about the household charges.
She said: “There is a legal requirement on people to pay these charges. These are tough economic times. No-one wants to have to pay charges. But in times of need, we all have to put our shoulders to the wheel.
“It is a struggle in Inishowen, traditionally a trading area, at the moment. Fine Gael did not create this situation. We found ourselves here due to years of mismanagement by previous governments.”
The Buncrana Town Councillor paused momentarily when asked if she would ever pursue a career in Dáil Éireann:“I honestly don’t know. I’ll see how things progress over the next few years,” she said.
At 25, the Crana College teacher has time on her side:“I got involved in local politics to try and make a positive contribution to Buncrana. I am very proud of where I come from. I would also like to give a voice to young people and women. Hopefully, over the next few years I will build on my achievements and continue to provide a voice for members of the community”