The gender quota which requires larger political parties put forward at least 30% female candidates will not be increased if attempts to form a government fail and another election is called.

By Conor McMorrow of our political staff

As speculation increases that another election may be needed to break the stalemate in forming a government, there has been concern within political parties that the gender quota requirement would increase with a fresh election.

Election 2016 was the first election in which gender quotas were imposed on the major parties and the number of female TDs has now increased from 27 to 35.

Record number of women elected to 32nd Dáil 

The 30% gender quota is due to increase to 40% - but not immediately, as has been feared by the larger parties.

According to the legislation underpinning the quotas - the Electoral (Amendment) Political Funding Act 2012 - from polling day a fortnight ago the 30% quota for selection stays in place until it expires in seven years time and then it increases to 40%.

Suzanne Collins, of the non-partisan Women for Election group, said: "The gender quota for selection will be increased to 40% in seven years and the parties must act now if they are going to reach it. 

"The 2016 General Election saw the incredible success of the gender quota for selection where the percentage of women standing doubled and an unprecedented 35 women were elected to Dáil Éireann. 

"Given that 16 of the 19 newly elected women were sitting councillors it is evident that local government provides a vital pipeline to national politics. 

"Overall 47 of the 52 newly elected TDs were councillors."

She added: "It is essential that the gender quota for selection is extended to local government elections.

"The parties need to act now if this pipeline is to be developed and more women are to be encouraged into national politics."