Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council made history last night by becoming the first-ever local authority in this country to have a 50:50 split of men and women.

But in Longford the story was very different. A politician of more than 35 years, Mae Sexton, is on course to lose her seat. That will leave Peggy Nolan the last woman standing.

Peggy was first elected twenty years ago. In all that time, there has never been any more than two women on Longford County Council, which has 18 seats. Now she will be the only one. 

On Carlow County Council the number of women doubled - from one to two. In a council with 18 seats, there are twice as many members named 'John' as there are women.

On Tipperary County Council women hold just eight out of the 40 seats and in Louth just eight out of 29 seats. 

On Clare County Council, which has 24 seats, four are held by women - the same number as are held by men called 'Pat'. On Wexford County Council there are six women and 28 men. In Kerry it is six out of 33.

You get the picture.

With a small number of seats left to be filled, women make up just around 23% of local authority membership - just slightly ahead of the 21% five years ago.

Because women are in the battle for the last seats in many local electoral areas, this number is expected to increase, possibly reaching 25% when the full picture emerges.

But it is clear that the breakthrough that some might have been hoping for, following the increased participation and voter turnout among women in recent referendum campaigns, has not come to pass.

While quotas are in place for general elections, they are not for local elections.

In March Minister of State with Responsibility for Local Government John Paul Phelan announced an incentive - a payment of €100 per female candidate for parties who increased their female representation when compared to the last local elections in 2014.

Minister Phelan said he was using a "carrot" as opposed to a "stick" to get parties to run more female candidates. But neither Fianna Fáil, with a 21% portion of women candidates, nor Fine Gael, with 29%, reached the 30% quota that applies to general elections. 

The National Women’s Council tells us it is disappointed about what it described as a "missed opportunity to break the critical barrier of 30% of women’s representation in Local Government." 

It’s Director, Orla O’Connor, said: ‘‘While a record number of 566 women contested the elections, up from 440 in 2014, they only made up 29% of all of the candidates."

"The Local Elections are a critical pipeline for elections at national level. It is very clear that the incentive approach from the Government is not working, as both major parties failed to run 30% women as candidates." 

She said: "As was the case with the general elections, a gender quota for Local Elections is a necessity if we are serious about achieving gender equality in politics - this could be monitored by the Electoral Commission when it is established.’’

Women for Election - an organisation that provides training and support for women candidates and newly elected members - said 23% would be very disappointing, but is hoping this will increase to 25% when all the counts are in. 

"The fact that not all the parties made 30% highlights the need for gender quotas at local level," said its CEO Ciairin de Buis. 

A very clear trend is a rural-urban divide in the representation of women.

Kildare County Council, however, is bucking the trend, with a rather intriguing surge for women councillors. Women hold 11 (27.5%) of the 40 seats on the outgoing council.

The results so far of the 2019 count indicate that could change. With less than half of seats so far filled, 14 have already gone to women. That’s expected to rise to 16 in total - or 40%.

There is one interesting statistic. Of the 90 candidates who ran there - 28 were women. If 16 get in, as is probable, then 57% of all female candidates have managed to get elected.

By contrast, only 24 of the 62 men who are contesting the election will get elected. That's 40%.

In other words, women are more likely to get elected than men in Kildare County Council.