I commend the Minister of State on a job well done. I recognise that he listened carefully to all the arguments that were made on Second, Committee and Report Stages. The Minister of State has been diligent in tabling amendments which have only served to strengthen the Bill. However, there is one glaring omission from the Bill, which I raised on Second and Committee Stages. Women involved in political life, be it at local or national level, have no automatic right to maternity leave and, while such women can take time off, their political party or group does not have a right to record their votes. The difficulty arises in votes on no confidence motions or votes for the appointment of Taoiseach where one's vote is required to be cast. If, however, by virtue of one's absence due to confinement there is no leeway, pairing system or automatic entitlement to have a vote recorded until the Legislature and the Government addresses this matter, we will be discriminating against women Members of the Oireachtas and women members of local authorities, who may be absent for a vote by virtue of the need to be with their families. Whether the matter relates to this Bill or to other legislation, we are missing an opportunity to deal with it.
One Member of the House is, happily, expecting a baby in the summer. Come September, however, if there was a close voting scenario, I have no doubt that, no matter what sympathy might be evident on both sides of the House, that Member would be expected to be here to do her job. That attitude is unfair, discriminatory and shows a lack of commitment to the involvement of women in our political system.
The Minister of State listened sympathetically to demands for the removal of the ridiculous time limits on applying for maternity leave, so I will lay this additional burden at his feet now. I realise that he may not be able to deal with the matter today but it is my job to make representations on behalf of women involved in politics. The Minister of State should raise the issue in whatever fora are available to him, to see what can be done during this Government's period of office.