It will be another 20 years before we see a more balanced Dáil unless the issue of gender equality is taken more seriously, Ireland East Fine Gael MEP Mairead McGuinness has said.

The MEP today called for the introduction of gender quotas supported by legislation.

She was speaking at a special seminar on gender balance organised by the Irish Parliamentary Society, which was held in the Dáil chamber this morning.

Ms McGuinness said that the chances of a woman candidate being elected are about 72% that of a man.

In terms of political representation, Ireland is bottom of the European league along with Malta, while in Finland at the moment both the President and Prime Minister are female.

The majority of EU member states still have fewer than 25% women members of Parliament.

Ms McGuinness said that gender quotas apply in eight EU Member States for the selection of candidates.

'Ireland is among those with no quota system, either voluntary or legislative. While quotas are controversial they may be necessary to kick start Ireland into the 21st century of political representation', she said.

'Let us risk legislation on gender balance. Let us set specific targets over a decent timeframe to let the political system adjust. And at that point the legislation should no longer be needed, as has happened in Denmark.'

The MEP said Irish women need to 'reawaken in themselves a debate on the issue. Women must insist that the issue be addressed. And we need to move quickly from debate to action.'