The Government is to provide financial incentives to get parties to select more women candidates for the forthcoming local elections.

A fund of €500,000 is being made available, part of which will be shared between political parties who show an increase in the number of female candidates running in the elections in May.

Gender quotas, which were introduced for the last general election, do not apply to local elections.

However Minister of State for Local Government and Electoral Reform John Paul Phelan said he hopes the provision of a financial incentive will get political parties to stand more women candidates.

A payment of €100 per female candidate will be made to parties who have 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.

Speaking on RTÉ's 'This Week' programme he said: "Party funding will always be based on the representation parties get in national elections, but the carrot can work a bit better".

"I know from looking at the figures, all of the parties have either reached the 30% target or are making significant advances on where they were five years ago."

Mr Phelan said there were a number of local authorities who have difficulties in getting large numbers of women elected.

He singled out Offaly County Council which has 19 councillors elected, but has no women.

"There's something not quite adding up there, Offaly people have shown themselves to vote for female candidates in national elections, but we need to ensure we have a substantial increase in Offaly at the next election, and part of the way of doing that is to increase the number of female candidates."

He added that the fund could be used by local councils to help them to provide childcare or creche facilities.

Mr Phelan said this would assist politicians with young families who want to get involved in local politics.