This is a question that I have being struggling with for some time. Recently I have discussed this with Comrades in relation to the 50/50 proviso in Policing and in relation to the lack of female political representatives and the general party membership itself.
Now some of you may or may not be aware that I disagree most strongly with the 50/50 provision in Policing. In my opinion discrimination, even if only for a short while and perhaps with the best of intentions, can never be positive.
Membership of a Police Service must always be on the basis of merit and while Catholics should be encouraged to join non-Catholics should not be discriminated against in the process.
This however is all moot as I do not support the RUC/PSNI and I would not encourage anyone, Catholic or otherwise, to join that particular organisation.
Sinn Féin, while ahead of anyone else in relation to Gender Equality, is not a true reflection of Irish society. 51% of the Irish people are female yet our party membership is not made up of 51% female.
I fully acknowledge the efforts that the party leadership are putting in trying to rectify this. Our party constitution now states that 50% of those elected to the Ard Chomhairle must be female. We also have a very capable Gender Equality advocate in the way of Eibhlín Glenholmes of Sinn Féin's Party Development Department. I am sure she will make the vital changes that need to be made.
We could change the rules to make every member of the Ard Chomhairle female, we could change it so that every member who is elected for Sinn Féin is female and we would still have a long way to go. We need to change the male dominated culture that permeates every sector of Irish life.
What we should not do is to go down the route of fracturing the relationship between Republicans. I have no time for "women only" conferences, they are discriminatory and if someone tried to have a "men only" conference there would quite rightly be disquiet and anger. We can only fix the gender problem by coming together as Republicans and Socialists and working together to ensure that an Ireland of Equals is a reality.
Republicans should never support "Positive Discrimination" because as Republicans we should be opposed to any form of discrimination.
Discrimination can never be positive because when discrimination occurs someone always suffers, for Republicans that should be unacceptable.