Alternative Ms Ulster at Parliament Buildings … words, aspirations, actions and no need for judges

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Reclaim the Agenda is teaming up with Green Party NI to run an Alternative Ms Ulster event in Parliament Buildings on Saturday 8 March (International Women’s Day).

reclaim the agenda logoRather than being a beauty pageant, it’s billed as “an evening of celebration to highlight gender imbalance in public life in Northern Ireland [and] give women an opportunity to voice the changes they would like to see happen now and for the future”.

The lack of women in Northern Irish Public life should be of great concern to all, not least to our public representatives. To try and raise awareness of this problem you are cordially invited to attend our Alternative Ms Ulster event, being held at Parliament Buildings, the heart of decision making in Northern Ireland, on International Women’s Day.

The lack of women in the NI Assembly is was the subject of a post this time last year in which a quote from Bronagh Hinds’ book Everyday Life After the Irish Conflict: The Impact of Devolution and Cross-Border Cooperation explained:

However, at the current rate of progress it would take sixteen election cycles, about sixty-five years, for women to become 50 per cent of MLAs, and thirteen elections, spanning fifty-two years, to reach gender balance in councils.

The Green Party explain that Parliament’s Buildings’ Great Hall “has a grand marble staircase that has been used as the backdrop for many historic photo opportunities in the past”. The event promises to give women the opportunity to walk down the to take to this staircase to a podium and deliver a brief statement of what they would like to see happen or change in Northern Ireland to benefit the lives and welfare of women.

Nuala McKeever will be compèring commèring, and the organisers hope that Stiff Little Fingers will round up the evening with a rendition of their infamous song, Alternative Ulster. Advance registration is required. Oh, and there’s wine upon arrival!

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  • http://www.thedissenter.co.uk thedissenter

    Very worthy.

  • iluvni

    SLF are in Tokyo on March 8.
    I doubt they’ll cancel that to join a load of oul dolls at Stormont.

  • Rory Carr

    But one can always hope.

  • Coll Ciotach

    One word – keek

  • kelephonica

    Thanks for posting this Alan. Shame about the level of commentary from Slugger’s esteemed male readers. To be expected but still disappointing. “worthy” “oul dolls” “Keek” So any attempt to engage with gender inequality in Northern Ireland is met with this kind of dismissive, patronizing, sexist attitude. From people who apparently consider themselves enlightened and politically engaged. What hope is there for this place!?

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    “Nuala McKeever will be compèring”

    Alan, this is male chauvinism at its very worst!!! Can’t you even read what it says on the Facebook page:

    Commere for the evening will be Nuala McKeever

    My flabber is well a truly ghasted ;)

    “Wine reception upon arrival.”

    A sort of wine and whine party. Wine, wobbly heels and stairs sound like a fairly lethal combination :)

  • kelephonica

    And people wonder why women say “It’s really hard to be a woman and engage with Slugger O’Toole” Mick, a bit of leadership would be good. Get your rabble in order!

  • Catherine Couvert

    Kelephonica: I totally agree with you. The usual rabble of trolls ‘rise’ to the occasion.
    That’s why women mostly don’t engage on Slugger, even though it has some great posts and insights.
    I tried for a while but it was really not worth my time. I got some support when trying to reply to homophobic comments but not very much. And I was advised to stop feeding the trolls: not a very helpful response because in the end the only way I could do that as a lesbian was to stop visiting Slugger.
    I only came back today because this post was flagged up on my Facebook page via BFN. Leaving again now. Life’s too short and there are plenty of other forums out there.
    But first, let me throw in a couple of emoticons to pretend this is all in good humour: :D :) :( ;)

  • Delphin

    Patronising is talking down to people, you know. I don’t see too much of that here. What I see is an attempt to wind someone up, and it looks like they have succeeded. That’s the Slugger way, I’m afraid.

  • http://alaninbelfast.blogspot.com Alan in Belfast

    Nevin – compèring / commèring … blame my bad French

  • http://www.thedissenter.co.uk thedissenter

    Meanwhile http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/woman/health-and-beauty/all-aboard-as-miss-northern-ireland-contest-is-launched-29942990.html

    “Over the years the Miss Northern Ireland contest has grown in stature, so we wanted this year’s launch to be somewhere meaningful that represented the best of Northern Ireland” which is obviously not Stormont.

  • Scáth Shéamais

    The Green Party seems to be claiming ownership of the event. The statement on their website makes no mention of Reclaim the Agenda.

  • kelephonica

    Delphin: winding people up, which is the Slugger way. Oh that’s fine then, next time an issue comes up about race let’s see everyone winding up a person of colour with derogatory stereotypes and racist slurs. Let’s see an article about disability strewn with comments laughing at the physical and mental capacity of individuals. How about a piece on LGBT issues full of homophobic ‘humour’…oh wait that one does already happen here. Nevermind.

  • BluesJazz

    Is it a ‘nine county’ or ‘six county’ alternative Miss Ulster?

  • babyface finlayson

    kelephonica
    Maybe it’s the title that makes it seem faintly ridiculous. ‘Alternative Ms Ulster’ obviously invites comparison with beauty contests.
    Not sure if its the best way to promote women’s rights.
    “Look at us, we’re not beautiful”.

  • iluvni
  • kelephonica

    Mick Fealty – read this comment thread. I couldn’t care less about what these cretins have to say but I care about you knowing this is the sexist dung heap you have allowed to fester. If you ever want to talk about why I have a list as long as my arm of women who have been bullied out of Slugger feel free to get in touch!

  • EdwinDroom

    Interesting that GPNI not only has, but has never had, a female elected representative. They currently have one male MLA and 4 male councillors – even the TUV has women in councils. Their candidate for the European election is also male.

    In terms of MLAs, SF actually ‘win’ hands down, with 10 of 29 or over 1/3. Alliance has 2 of 8, or 1/4. UUP is next best, with 2 of 13, then SDLP with 2 of 14, with DUP the worst of the big parties, at 5 of 38, though the last 3 are all around 1/7. Win is, of course, intended relatively.

    There aren’t enough MPs for it to be meaningful, but Alliance has 100% women, as would UUP if they hadn’t lost Sylvia Hermon. SDLP is 1/3, SF 1/5 and DUP have a grand figure of 0% women despite having almost half of our MPs.

  • Mick Fealty

    Just a little unfair that Edwin. Kelly Andrews ran in Bangor Abbey in 2005 which set up a base for Stephen Agnew, with Joanne Dunlop running in Bangor West in 2011 .

    If I recall correctly there were several women candidates in 2007 when they spread themselves a little too thinly and nearly missed out on getting Agnew across the line in North Down for the first time.

    How many other elected reps do you reckon they have had?

  • babyface finlayson

    iluvni
    You are not dragging me into that!
    They all look like like fine examples of humanity to me.
    My point was that the title of the event is inadvertently inviting them to be judged as in a beauty contest; the opposite of what was intended I’m sure.
    Now away back to Crete with you.

  • cynic2

    How can you say that?…..

    Looks like a flegger protest gone wrong. Did they have PC permission for the march?

  • cynic2

    “So any attempt to engage with gender inequality in Northern Ireland is met with this kind of dismissive, patronizing, sexist attitude.”

    Nah….just feeble half baked protest about benefits led by trades unionist who seem to be inferring that its all women who suffer get the treatment. PS If that line of greetin itself is not sexist, what is?

  • cynic2

    PS I have had a similar go about Groups like Eigri (where have they gone I wonder) when they did this nonsense a few years ago and they were overwhelmingly make

  • cynic2

    PPS your website is like a remnant of a 1980s parody of ‘Weemins’ Issues as published by the GLC

  • BluesJazz

    Alternative Ms Ulster reminds me of the graffiti below a NO TOPLESS BATHING sign which read:

    “Ulster has suffered enough”.

  • BluesJazz

    http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8063/8175427076_c36dc2d67a_b.jpg

    Which would complement iluvni’s photo above.

  • BluesJazz
  • ForkHandles

    “homophobic comments”

    Catherine Couvert, If you want to reply to comments about homosexuality you should debate them on slugger. there is no bar on you doing so. in fact it would make a great change from the usual single daft issue that slugger is about.

    I wonder do you accept that people can disagree that homosexuality is ok or normal? do you accept that people can say that it is unnatural and immoral? do you accept that the idea that homosexuality is ok and normal can be opposed by the idea that it is unnatural and abnormal and not something that children should be put into by adoption?

  • ForkHandles

    It would be interesting if you can make a point that is more than the “homophobic” argument. I don’t think anyone thinks this is anything other than basic nonsense. It is a silly argument really because it pre supposes that people can’t disagree with the idea that homosexuality is ok or normal. Obviously an attempt to portray people who might disagree with a point as ‘bad’. A bit childish really. We could put “ophobic” against any point of view we don’t like. Silly don’t you agree?

  • ForkHandles

    bed time in my part of the world. but I will reply if you want to debate tomorrow.

  • http://eastbelfastdiary.blogspot.com/ Jenny

    Thanks for the post, Alan. The comments are what I expected and shows why Slugger is no longer the essential forum for NI political debate that it once was. And why the event is necessary. BTW the Green Party has a woman Chair, politics is not just about elected representatives. And a lot of great woman candidates coming through a non tokenist selection process for the May shadow council elections.

  • Reader

    Jenny, I consider the behaviour of many of the posters above to be offensive, and to reflect badly on some people that I have agreed/disagreed with in a more courteous environment.
    However, their behaviour is distracting from more serious issues with the representation of women in political life. I agree, ideally women should be 50% of the candidates and 50% of the elected representatives – but surely the starting point for that is they should first be 50% of political party members? I’m not a member of any political party myself, but Slugger did an excellent series of reports from party conferences. With photos. There were not so many women in the conference halls.
    Also, I am intrigued by the mention of the May shadow council elections, which I had never heard of. What political parties are taking part? And what is the ratio of men to women in the list of candidates?

  • Rory Carr

    … ideally women should be 50% of the candidates and 50% of the elected representatives…

    Unfortunately the first is patronising and the second, apart from being undemocratic, makes the crass assumption that women would only other for other women when instead, in a general election, they might choose to vote for the candidate of a party led by a woman which, in Thatcher’s case would have been detrimental to the furtherance of policies favourable to women in general.

    But then everything is difficult and women must progress at their own pace, making their own mistakes and rejoicing in their own ictories. To that end I applaud the forthcoming event at Stormont and wish it every success.

    I am annoyed more than saddened by some of the comments above and really would have expected better from some contributors (you know who you are).

  • Neil

    I happen to know one occasional commentor who assumes a male identity to post on Slugger. Just throwing that out there.

  • Dec

    ‘winding people up, which is the Slugger way’

    No, that’s the Internet way. Some people on this thread appear to be surprised and even outraged that serious debate isn’t always available within an online thread during the working day. Sheesh…

  • Reader

    Rory Carr: Unfortunately the first is patronising and the second, apart from being undemocratic, makes the crass assumption that women would only other for other women when instead, in a general election, they might choose to vote for the candidate of a party led by a woman which, in Thatcher’s case would have been detrimental to the furtherance of policies favourable to women in general.
    I had meant my 50% figures to be targets, not quotas. I am not really a quota sort of person…
    In addition, I don’t think a statistically neutral outcome depends on people only voting for their own sex!

  • David Crookes

    Gender equality would be the quare thing if you could get it. At 7.25 pm, you walk into some function that started at 7.00 pm. “Sorry I’m late,” you say, ” a fool of a man ran into the back of my car.” Sympathy all round, and no man takes offence. But if you say, “Sorry I’m late, a fool of a woman ran into the back of my car,” many women will take offence, and the PC Police will mark you down for death.

  • Delphin

    Dec, I would have to agree with you on that. In defense of Slugger, the card system keeps things relatively civilised and gives a platform for impassioned and sometimes enlightened debate
    David Crookes you are on dangerous ground!

  • Rory Carr

    Reader: Of course. I ought really to have considered your intention rather than jumping on a literary inexactitude. Apologies.

  • Seamuscamp

    The event may be admirable, even noble; the naming of the event is crass and says little that is positive about the imagination of the organisers. Or perhaps it is a homophobic joke?

    The question of gender imbalance is one that needs airing. I think there must be an element (at least) of misogyny but that cannot be the whole story, can it? My experience of trades unionism (in a ruralish area) over many years was that men were more likely to volunteer for office; the women who did volunteer were likely to be of higher calibre (and better negotiators) than their male brethren.

  • iluvni

    ………so, that went well them…….lol!

  • David Crookes

    Goblin-kings who pontificate on internet blogs often accuse the person who dares to disagree with them of ‘trolling’. Silly people, being impressed by that sinister word, embrace it as a new friend. Then they start to use it themselves, without thinking, much as they use the booby-phrase ‘sibling rivalry’ when their daughter wallops her brother.

    In the same way, feminazis and their postcolonial lackeys often accuse those who admire beauty of being ‘creepy’. Silly people, being impressed by that sinister word, embrace it as a new friend. Then they start to use it themselves, without thinking, much as they use the booby-phrase ‘mid-life crisis’ when their sixty-five-year-old uncle marries his young hairdresser. Not long ago a local blogger described the proposal to hold a beauty contest in Northern Ireland’s Parliament Buildings as ‘creepy’ Many of my lady friends thought that he was nuts.

    Time for a little equitability. The idea of holding a normal beauty contest in Stormont was pronounced by certain high priests of rectitude to be ‘creepy’. If the said high priests have all queued up to apply the same adjective to Alternative Ms Ulster, I’ve missed it.