-----but his contribution was straight from the school of St. Augustine. He must have been looking at the books last night to put it together. I have had this treatment from Fine Gael in the past, both in government and in opposition. What is happening here is the legislative equivalent of putting something in the fridge and then the deep freezer so that it becomes so covered over in icicles, the Government can grab its own legislation - inferior and all as it might be - and tell us we must run with it instead. I am very glad of the expressions of support for the Bill before the House and the principles contained therein. The Bill can be further improved and we are totally open to that.
I have a friend, Mary Upton, a former Deputy for Dublin South Central who departed this House some time ago. She has a theory about a potted plant and it describes well something to which the Government is prone. I refer to the situation where women cluster around male politicians to create a doughnut, or as Mary used to call it, a potted plant effect. There is far too much of this clustering in photographs on social media posted by various men in the current Government, although I will not name names. There is also an approach whereby women are flattered. Flattery will get you everywhere, as Marx - it might have been Groucho Marx - said. Flattery does not cut it.
The sentiments in the Bill are very clear. In effect, the gender pay gap means that, from November, women work for free. In other words, they are working for free for two weeks of November and all of December.
I want to be clear to women at home that this is what we want to erode and end, namely, the difference whereby women, despite working just as much as men, end up earning less. We have had many examples of this. All of it needs to be changed.
The Minister of State was a little self-satisfied when he said that the public service is better. I draw to his attention a table the Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, gave me yesterday which refers to the three top grades in the Civil Service. In 2012, 23% of Secretaries General were women and that has fallen to 21% in 2018, which is a small fall. For second secretaries general, who are usually in large Departments such as the Department of Finance, 40% were women in 2012 and that has fallen to 25% in 2018. At deputy secretary general level, which, again, is a significant public service position, 36% were women in 2012 and that has fallen to 24% in 2018.
The Government should wake up and look at what is happening. We have capable men and women in all parts of the public service and in all walks of life in Ireland. Our demand is simply to mind the gap and to ensure equality between men and women. It is important for young people growing up today, whether they are boys or girls in school, that they feel they can aspire to any field of work or any occupation they wish to pursue, and that our public education system and other services will make their aspirations possible to fulfil. That is what we are looking for. We would not like professions in which there were only women and no men. In that sense, we need to look at areas like teaching to see if more young men might be encouraged to take part in various elements of teaching.
I refer to my involvement, as a politician, in advancing the cause of women. Almost every woman who comes into the House seeks to take one or more steps in favour of women. When I was elected in 1992, I put forward on behalf of the Labour Party, and, to be fair, the then Fianna Fáil Minister, Michael Woods, accepted the proposal to provide 20 years of home care credits for women in the social welfare system, which was important. As Minister of State with responsibility for overseas development aid, I was involved in orienting our development programme to the poorest people in Africa, who are women and children, and that very much arose out of the Labour Party's philosophy. In more recent years, when we went into government with Fine Gael, as the country was on its knees, in our first budget, in which I was involved as Minister, we reversed the €1 an hour pay cut that had been made to the minimum wage. For a woman working 30 hours a week on the minimum wage, that was worth €30. I have always been proud of that.
During my period as Tánaiste, we established the Low Pay Commission to research the issue of who has low and precarious pay in order that all of us in the Dáil could better address that. We also brought in registered employment agreements to allow for proper trade union negotiations, which made us the only country in Europe, in a difficult economic era, that significantly expanded trade union rights. That is very much in keeping with the philosophy of Connolly and Larkin and our Labour Party history. Not all colleagues are aware of this, or perhaps not all want to be aware of it, but it is worth pointing out. When Deputy Frances Fitzgerald and myself were the only female members of the Cabinet, alongside Máire Whelan as Attorney General, we worked to ensure that women and girls who had been affected by the Magdalen laundries had a process whereby they did not have to go to court and could get redress. It was not perfect but it provided a solution, particularly for women living in England and the United States. Very often, when women left Magdalen laundries, they just got on the first boat and headed away from this country. I am again grateful that the Labour Party, together with Fine Gael, was able to achieve what was a fundamental address of an issue that caused people to suffer all of their lives.
I would like the Minister of State to think again. Sometimes in politics it is better to be generous than to be mean, and this is one of those occasions. We have heard an extraordinary range of agreement. In the end, the Government can produce its own Bill and it can listen to people in business saying, "We cannot do that because we have only 80 employees. Why do people want to know about our business?" In any modern interpretation of what should be available politically in a country, information about firms and companies that command large swathes of our economy is important in regard to how, ultimately, people experience life. If we want to help women in low paid employment or women on social welfare who want to get into employment, we have to make sure we have a way of getting the information from companies. Where companies are not treating women on an equal basis to men, that must be immediately addressed. We have had examples in the public service going back 30 or 40 years and we have addressed them, by and large, except in terms of promotion.
We are in an era of exceptionalism in regard to the appointment of women. For example, in the justice area, recently the Minister, Chief Justice, Director of Public Prosecutions and the head of the Garda were women. For a variety of different reasons, several of them left office and we are now back to a male-dominated structure. I have nothing against any of the men and I know they have achieved their positions on merit. However, this is what the Bill is about. We have to bring in structures that force us to look at whether the proper balance between men and women is present. That is what the debate on the gender pay gap is all about. A society is poorer in a situation where women are treated less well than their male counterparts, particularly when they are doing the same or more work.