Gender equality, gender mainstreaming, international development, Irish Aid
This article offers a critical analysis of Irish Aid’s treatment of gender equality and gender mainstreaming. Informed by key concepts in policy process and feminist scholarship, it examines the evidence of Irish Aid’s progress in this area. The author finds that gender equality has low salience in Irish Aid and a record of weak implementation. It is argued that while the adoption of a Gender Equality Policy in Irish Aid reflects global policy diffusion, Ireland’s rhetorical endorsement of gender equality in international affairs stems chiefly from an instrumental interest in the reputational gains it can offer and represents a form of ‘soft coercion’ rather than a principled interest in achieving gender equality. The weakness of state feminism in Ireland and the weak links between officials and women’s movement actors are also factors. Further, while the disadvantage of low salience can be offset by the presence of effective ‘policy entrepreneurs’ using discretionary power to augment resources, this is not evident in Irish Aid in the case of the Gender Equality Policy. Furthermore, the rising paradigm of ‘managing for development results’ poses new challenges to rights-based approaches to development, including gender mainstreaming. For these reasons, the Gender Equality Policy in Irish Aid is at risk of continued dilution and perhaps disappearance.