I welcome the Minister to the House. The debate has moved onto whether the quota should be 40% or 30%. Thank God we are back to item No. 1 on the Irish political agenda; namely, the split. The former Fine Gael leader and Taoiseach, Dr. Garret FitzGerald, once suggested that a piece of political research might work in practice, but questioned whether it would work in theory. We are debating whether a piece of political theory will work in practice by making a genuine difference.
We all agree with Senator van Turnhout's remark that women are not disinterested in politics. I wonder whether we are trying to bring about a perfect form of politics. Have we decided that perfect politics means absolute equality of representation between the sexes, the generations, the socioeconomic sectors of society and urban and rural areas? I do not think politics can be perfect. That is why this legislation will pose as many questions as it will answer. Politics is a bit like life in the sense that there are no clear, sharp or black and white definitions.
Thousands of men and women in this country are hugely interested in politics but do not wish to be elected politicians. They are happy to be political party officers, researchers, press office officials, branch or cumann members, canvassers or organisers. They are politicians who have chosen not to put their names on a ballot paper. I wonder whether we are getting it wrong in our desire to develop perfect politics with what we believe to be total equality. The design of perfect politics should start with a review of our electoral system. It should include a review of the operation of the Dáil, the Seanad and local government. All of that will have to feed into the development of perfect politics. We are addressing a small portion of it.
This debate has been concluded in the sense that this legislation will be voted through and the 30% candidate quota will come into effect. I understand that amendments proposing that the 40% quota be introduced more quickly, or proposing its removal, are to be tabled. I hope it will disappear as quickly as possible. It is more important for us to take steps to facilitate more women to stand for politics, as Senator Gilroy said when he spoke about the culture of politics in this country. Such measures could address our working hours and our electoral system, for example.
I understand that the constitutional commission is considering a review of our electoral system. If some type of list system were to be introduced, as has been done in most European countries and democracies worldwide, the Bill before the House would not be needed. When the party bosses produce their candidate lists, they take account of what they consider to be equality. That would be one way of bringing about equality, if we are absolutely serious about it. If a list system is introduced as part of our electoral process, each party could ensure men and women are equally represented on the top echelons of its list. We seem set to design a form of perfect politics that requires 50% women and 50% men. If we absolutely believe in it, we could do it through a list system.
This debate needs to be much more holistic, rather than focusing on gender or candidate quotas. We have to look far and wide when we consider how we practise politics in this country and what constitutes our political class. The Minister knows I have believed for a long time that any action in this regard must begin and end with an evaluation of the electoral system in this country, which is a political joke. Obviously, I believe that most of the political blame for the economic mess the country is in rests with a single political party. As a society, however, we are very lucky that we have survived as long as we have with the sort of political system we have.