Women give up on politics…

AFTER a decade of mixed fortunes, the Women’s Coalition finally throws in the towel and disbands.

  • missfitz

    Darn, I was just about to join!

    Seriously though, while the efforts have to be applauded, I never supported a single gender party, as I think you have to fight the demon from within, no matter how tough.

    I would support a new political party that would include all genders, all religions and wasnt the Alliance party

  • kuraaka

    May I ask… Seriously, I simply want an opinion, what’s wrong with Alliance? I’m from Estonia and have been lurking here on Slugger for a while. I’m just interested.

  • The Alliance are a liberal party (sister party of GB’s Liberal Democrats) – that’s one. They give off the impression of being very middle-class and sitting on the fence on most issues (or so their critics might say).

    This must rank somewhere near the top as well though.

    Back to the original post, I’m glad to see the NIWC disband. I agree totally with Missfitz (that must make her a chauvinist too though). I think if these women wanted to be serious politicians they could have either
    a) Joined the existing parties
    b) Formed a new party that wasn’t automatically excluding 50% of the population

  • bertie

    I have to say that I never got the point of the Woman’s Coalition. I get the point of other parties and I profoundly agree with some but this I never understood.

  • missfitz

    I dont think I’m a chauvinist Beano.

    Having been involved as a youngster in politics, my gender was not an issue at any stage. One of my good friends from then went on to become Tainiste, a position she still holds, and we were both heavily involved with no gender barriers from the late 70’s. In fact, Mary got great support from within the FF party at the time.

    I’ve had some involvement with both of the parties for catholics up here, and again not much gender issue, although more so in SDLP than in SF, as far as I could see.

    I would love to see a new party, cross religions, cross genders, and generate leadership and new ideas.

    I had been asked by one or two to be involved in the WC (that sounds rude) but on principle I wouldnt be involved in the overt exclusion of anyone.

    As to Alliance? Well, nothing about them is attractive to me in reality, although in principle they should be. The most promising thing I can see about Alliance is Naomi Long who has impressed me mightily any time I’ve heard her on the radio

  • CS Parnell

    So farewell then NIWC…
    Keith’s Mum said you were a symbol of an optimistic moment
    Snubbed out by grim reality

    Well, I’m sad in one way, because the NIWC were a product of a moment of hope that’s long gone now. Let’s face it, if your future is in the hands of Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams you are well f****d

  • Saw her on TV spouting off rubbish about the 11+ yesterday; that didn’t impress me much at all. I find it difficult to get past that part of Alliance policy (and their support for the Maze stadium).

    “not much gender issue, although more so in SDLP than in SF”
    I’m not sure which way you meant this – were there more gender issues in the SDLP?

  • missfitz

    This is just my personal relection on this Beano, but I certainly found that gender was an issue in the SDLP. Some of that was the fault of the women in the party, at the time I was involved there was one big fish who was not making way for the minnows.

    Things certainly seem to have improved, but the shinners treat it very differently, you never feel that gender is an issue at all. In SF, I got the feeling of best person for the job, never mind your gender.

    I was nominated for a role in the SDLP once, and was surprised that a female member of the party did not support me. When I asked her why not, she said she felt that the role was more suited to a man with long service in the party. There just wasnt the enablement there. Like I said though, that is going back 8 or 9 years, so things may have changed

  • prolefodder

    missfitz, some good points made about the WC. Another piece of the centre ground up, but there’s a WC vote going abegging in South Belfast and North Down all the same. If Alliance is not to your taste, what about the Greens – they combine the anti-sexism of the WC but without the single gender issue and are also cross-community…

  • A sad day. Okay the Women’s Coalition were primarily a vehicle to represent a single group in society but at least they found a different way to cut up society!

    Does anyone care to surmise what effect, positive or negative, the NIWC’s brief existance has had on women’s roles in other parties? Ten years ago Northern ireland had not elected a single women MP for over a quarter of a century. Today 3 in 18 are female but wouldn’t they have been there without the NIWC?

  • As someone, somewhere once said: “Rejoice, just Rejoice!”

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Heh! I suspected Karl wasn’t a fan.

  • yerman

    Even Prince Philip seen that the idea of a Womans Coalition was “a bit sexist”.

    There is today, just a little less self-righteousness in Northern Ireland. That can never be a bad thing.

  • Henry94

    Well if nobody else is going to say anything positive about them I will. They were a breath of fresh air in political life and brought some very able people to the table at an important time.

    When the future of the north was being decided the Womens Coalition had an impact and the DUP did not.

  • Garibaldy

    Apart from finding the notion of a party based on one gender only highly offensive, I had other issues with this now thankfully defunct group.

    One of the main issues I had was the disingenuous nature of many of their comments on previous political involvement. Senior women liked to give the impression that they were political virgins, when in fact they had a long history of political involvement, often in the Communist Party. This made the links between this organisation and Jean Kennedy Smith, the US Consulate and the Northern Ireland Office even more nauseating and hypocritical than it was already.

    The Women’s Coalition had one purpose and one purpose only – to aid the process of getting parties linked to violence into the mainstream political process in the Forum. This explains the relationship it had with the people mentioned above, and the reason why the organisation was so readily dumped by all concerned after 1998. It was unexpectedly successful in the first Assembly elections, but was already past its sell by date.

    Actually, I’m being unfair. It had two purposes. The other was to provide jobs for ambitious, opportunist, but often talentless, careerists whose actions proved they never had any political principles or commitment in the first place. I’m astonished this Frankenstein’s creature-party managed to limp on as long as it did. Perhaps now it’s gone, their voters can return to or find serious parties with some vision and commitment.

  • Rapunsel

    Garibaldy

    The party might be defunct but if I was you i would not doubt the mettle and commitment of those women involved in it. I didn’t agree with the idea of a gender based party myself and found myself on opposing sides to colleagues and friends on a number of occasions around election times. I found the members I know/knew the opposite of “ambitious, opportunist, but often talentless, careerists” given that many had already carved out a sucessful career in others pheres. Sadly we are now seeing the rise of the professional political class across all the other parties here. thre can be no doubt as to the vision and commitment of those in the party, ok quite often middle class, articulate and intelligent– only here could these be considered negative attributes — any the dislike of many for them as I suspect your’s is — was and is based on outdated sexist attitudes.

    As for membership of the Communist Party– the influence of former members of that is far and wide in NI and elsewhere– look at John Reid for example.

  • Busty Brenda

    Just as an aside, there do not seem to be too many women bloggers on slugger.

    I would now like to nominate mizzfitz.

    seriously.

  • Brendan, Belfast

    I could take or leave most of them but Monica was a chore. She never had a positive contribution to make during the lifetime of the Assembly, and resorted to condemning, objecting and pure yapping. a shame.

  • Bob Wilson

    Some might say that elsewhere in the UK women with a left wing agenda might join the Labour Party.
    I look forward to Monica championing the cause of NI citizens (regardless of gender) who are attempting to expose the hypocrisy and duplicity of the Labour Party and exercise their rights to be full and equal members of one of the governing parties of the UK. (But I’m not holding my breath)

  • Pete Baker

    Brenda

    I seem to remember the apparent lack of female bloggers on Slugger being mentioned before.. as I believe I mentioned then, I’m still in favour of missfitz joining the team.. but it’s entirely her decision.

    Just email Mick to discuss it further. 🙂

  • Busty Brenda

    Thanks Pete, I will do, if missfitz is willing, not much point to it otherwise.

    Missfitz?

  • Valenciano

    MissFitz: “I was nominated for a role in the SDLP once, and was surprised that a female member of the party did not support me. When I asked her why not, she said she felt that the role was more suited to a man with long service in the party.”

    But why should she have supported you? Why should she support people purely because they happen to be the same gender? Admittedly I don’t know the situation but maybe the role was one more suited to someone with more experience in the party?

    Anyway, agree with all written above. The NIWC got lucky in the first place, polling a low vote in the 1996 forum elections but gaining a toehold in the system purely as a result of a flawed electoral system which was designed to help loyalist paramilitaries gain representation. Even though they were briefly able to build on it in subsequent elections, they always seemed a bit directionless and were revealed as a busted flush in 2003. It’s taking the piddle a bit for them to brag about 10 years of achievements considering they have been totally invisible since 2003, with the party website inactive for months.

    Anyone know if UKUP or the NIUP have done the decent thing and committed hari kari yet?

  • Pete Baker

    Of course, if missfitz declines, Brenda…?

  • Garibaldy

    Rapunsel,

    Firstly on the CP. I’ve no objection to people being or having been in the CP (except those who tried to turn it into a cheerleading group for sectarin terrorists). I do have an objection to people pretending they were something they were not. Cosying up to the British and American governments while claiming to still be communists can only be rank hypocrasy.

    You must have met different members than I did. Most of the members I met were younger, and so on the make it hurt to watch. I’ve no objection to people being intelligent, articulate or middle class, but to be frank most of those I met were only one out of the three, despite their own self-perceptions. How many of their now ex-members serve on government quangos? Possibly proportionally higher than Alliance, and that’s saying something. Many others work on government or foreign government funded projects. It’s perfectly legitimate to question whether they would have these posts without having been in this group.

    I’m tempted not to dignify the sexism charge with a response. It wasn’t me arguing as a serious point that NI was in the state it was in because men are macho knuckle draggers, and if only we had women in charge everything would be fine. This ignores the number of women heavily involved in violence, and the even greater number more heavily involved in promoting hatred and sectarianism. It insulted all our intelligences.

    They also, by painting themselves as having to come to the rescue of voiceless women, insulted many female activists involved in politics for decades, day in and day out. One example is the fact that before this group was magically created out of thin air, there already existed a network of female political activists from many parties working on women’s issues (called, I think, the NI women’s political forum).

    As for vision and commitment, are you seriously trying to argue this point, or are you just trying to wind me up? This is a supposedly political organisation that just packed up and went home. If that’s not a reason to question their vision and commitment, what is? Here are some other reasons. They liked to boast they had everything from communists to conservatives – well, what was their vision on low pay? on equal rights? on abortion? on childcare? on schools? Did they have an agreed position? Could they have?
    Clearly not. What did they achieve? Nothing, except higher profiles and higher wages for many of their members.

    They were not a force for progress and equality. Rather their success, however temporary and partial, was a poor reflection on our political culture, and our voters, who disgrace themselves every four years as it is.

  • crataegus

    The very concept of the Women’s Coalition was flawed, you don’t promote women in politics by setting up a separate political body that has no possibility of exercising any real power, an organization that alienated most men and patronized a large number of women.

    It seemed to me that the Women’s Coalition originally had fairly good support from working class women, but that they were basically shafted by some with personal ambitions, but that is true of all political parties.

    Would it have made any real difference if the Women’s Coalition had never existed, probably not?

    There is a significant body of people, like myself who would walk over burning coals before voting for the four dominant parties, but there is no radical, attractive alternative that has any real electoral prospects. From my point of view the middle ground looks like this.

    Alliance only if there is no one else to vote for.
    Greens; not in my neighbourhood and very marginal.
    Labour; the left generally hopelessly split on the border.
    Conservatives; nice people, but no chance.
    Small Unionist Parties, not my cup of tea.
    Independents, not enough of them and the system is stacked against them.
    SEA; a fringe group with no future.

    If the people who set up and organised the Women’s Coalition had instead tried to set up a wider base with some of the other small groupings they would probably still be in existence with several Assembly seats, perhaps a dozen councillors and some realistic base to build on. It is easy for me at my remote and safe distance to suggest that there probably isn’t that much difference in political outlook between Women’s Coalition, some of the left wing groups, Labour and the Greens.

    I admire people who plough their lonely furrow in pure intellectual correctness, Labour organising here, Gender politics, weird voting systems, socialist purity, environmental mantras etc. However in the real world politics is about getting into a position that enables you to make change rather than philosophising. I wish that someone would pull some of these groups together and give jaded voters a real choice.

  • Now there gone where are there votes going to go? I would expect Alliance, SDLP and UUP to take the vast majority of the votes, probably in that order.

  • esmereldavillalobos

    I met Ms Morrice (NIWC) once when I was young. I may be corrected but she was once a rep for the EC in Belfast when my European Studies class went to meet her and she struck me as a very driven and clever individual. I was always regretful that she took up a position as a rep for (just) women as the people that she should have been representing were the men and women that should consolidate the centre ground in NI politics, not just a sop for what was happening at the assembly at that time.

    It is a great pity that her party has to fold.

    We should remember their contribution and integrate their politics into the NI reality.

  • Some good points here. In a society, the six counties, where the sectarian divide is preeminent, there can be no room for those who want to slice the cake differently. Thus Big Ian and wee Gerry rule. It was the same in 1920 with Big Carsoni and wee Joe Devlin. Nice guys (and gals) finish last. Though cushy Quangos make nice runners up prizes. Also, when I saw a Baronnness was a big shot in this party…. Give me the old days of the Lesbian Feminists who used to run candidates in Rathmines there they got the Lesbian Feminist and Mischief votes.

  • PaddyReilly

    Of course the Womens Coalition and Alliance did themselves in. They more than anyone else were responsible for the GFA, but they devised a political system designed to eliminate the smaller parties: you have to get more than one seventh of the vote in a particular constituency to be represented. If they had insisted on a single constituency for the whole province they could have been holding the balance of power now.

  • PaddyReilly,

    I suspect I agree with much of your sentiments, but I’m afraid you are simply wrong on most of the details.

    They more than anyone else were responsible for the GFA,

    Debatable, I’m afraid. The agreement was basically drawn up by the two governments as their best guess at what the UUP, SDLP and SF could all sign up to. The most significant external source of ideas was probably the Opsahl report.

    but they devised a political system designed to eliminate the smaller parties:

    Not really fair to the Women’s Coalition, who wanted a “top-up” mechanism to include the top ten parties.

    you have to get more than one seventh of the vote in a particular constituency to be represented.

    Not so. People are routinely elected with much less than a quota of first preferences. The effective threshold is more like 8% or 9%.

    If they had insisted on a single constituency for the whole province they could have been holding the balance of power now.

    Wouldn’t have made any difference, while Unionist parties are still getting over 50% of the vote when all is combined; and certainly wouldn’t make any difference, if each “side” has a separate veto, since that puts the crucial swing votes far from the centre ground of the community as a whole.

  • Alan

    Congratulations to everyone who pushed out the Women’s Coalition boat, and I mean everyone – from those who stood for election, to those who knocked on the doors, to those who offered their front rooms for meetings. You all made a difference.

    I could never fully condone a genderist party, but I certainly respected the political decisions that they made – and that is where it counts. The time of the agreement was a time of hope that was slowly crushed into their own shape by the big beasts of NI politics. The decision to quit was the right one (who’s working on the book, by the way?).

    We need an alternative.

  • godsdog

    What is this all about , i know we Irish have a tendancy not to speak ill of the dead but the W/C praise here is imho all sh*t.
    They were established and FUNDED in extremely dubious circumstances, were mostly ex commies, the courted SF/PUP/UDP/SDLP/UUP/ALL at different time to get votes but never to enhance the standing of women in the north. Can someone name me one thing they achieved ever?
    They became a home for the nice people who were bored with Alliance and who thought the SDLP and UUP were too militant.
    In the end they provided caannon fodder for Quangos and health careers for their founders

  • Busty Brenda

    I can’t agree that the base was too small. The greens and the smaller parties and independents are standing their ground. These women just threw in the towel too quickly and too soon. They were too busy fighting the big boys to concentrate on womens issues. There’s nothing wrong with a genderist party, or a single issue party or canditate, but in the case of WC they were too interested in being one of the lads to concentrate on what mattered to women on a province wide basis.

    Fighting for breast screening for women under 50/52, or help/rights for women who were in the home 24/7 in a caring role, domestic abuse, a whole range of issues none of them properly addressed by WC or B De Brun as health minister, or Iris Robinson. However, I do believe Diane Dodds would be a good canditate for this, but again all of them too interested in the national question, fighting the lads, or being one of them.

    Sad really.

  • CS Parnell

    This whole discussion reminds me of the proverbial bald men and comb fight.

    I think history will give the NIWC a decent enough write up. Not my party, but they were on the side of the angels.

    In an ideal world all nationalists would vote SDLP and all unionists would vote Alliance and sure, we’d get along great. But we’re not in an ideal world and so we have to take comfort where we can get it, and the NIWC did a little to help.

    But the moment has passed – in declining order I’d say Adams (game player), Paisley (only second because I never expected anything better) and Trimble (could never rise to the occassion) are to blame and the other parties can at least comfort themselves with the fact they tried.

    Those on the nationalist side of the house will know that women’s war wariness was a big factor in getting the RM to dump arms, so women have played an important part in our little destiny here, and may they continue to do so. The task now is to get the institutions back, and at least the republicans (thirty years too late, but better late than never) have recognised that – how about a few unionist women stepping up to the wicket?

  • Rubicon

    Is the timing of the WC’s demise ocurring with the appointment of the 2 Deputy Speakers just a coincidence?

  • missfitz

    Fell asleep early last night, never a good idea if you start yapping on a thread.

    Sveral points have been put to me and I would like to answer them:

    1. Valenciano. You asked why I was surprised? Well, I guess I was going on the solidarity angle for one. There was also a major ‘upstart’ factor, and I was obviously perceived as one. I had had a very fierce run in with John Hume on the nature of his leadership and the party’s inaability to communicate to its rank and file, so all of this was there as well.

    2. Brenda

    I agree with you entirely that the female point of view is not prominent on Slugger, and when this was raised in the past, Mick has also agreed. Ultimately, its up to him who he wants as a contributor, but I am flattered that you suggested my name. I have to say, I would have thought it might have been something you would have liked and been very good at as well.

  • Jo

    The NIWC represnted a real, determined effort to attempt a new beginning to politics co-incidental with the GFA.

    I have to laugh at the party being dismissed as “opportunists” as if this was not a common factor to ALL politicians? It only becomes used as an attempt to denigrate a party made up of, wait for it, women! How DARE they not know their place, huh?

    The party, like female bloggers, in my experience, was subject to personal abuse, chauvinism, pedantry, patronising and ridicule by the male-dominated main parties. I think the NIWC point that existing political attitudes were stale and had nothing to offer except ritual slagging and and endlessly repeated recycled past has been proven eloquently by the behaviour of the male-dominated Assembly and the male-dominated and less effacious realm of political blogging.

    Thats been my experience. Thats what we have been left with, after their departure.

  • missfitz

    Brenda
    One other point on the issue you raised. Women should not need a separate party to psuh their agenda, it has to be done from within.
    I was interested in your breast screennig comment, Action Cancer have now lowered their screening to women of 40 and over. I was up there last week and they have a fabulous new bus being custom built to provide cancer services throughout the province.

    Another thought on the WC though. If they had indeed become another middle ground party, I suspect they would have had a much tougher run.

    I still believe firmly we need a new party, and yes one that brings in the ideas from the other middle grounders. I have just finished a piece of research on attitudes, and have had some opinions confirmed on how people perceive their lot in life, and it isnt very positive. While no party can offer a panacea, surely there is room for someone without a partitionist focus who will want to offer a good alternative

  • Garibaldy

    Jo,

    As someone who said the women’s coalition were opportunists, I feel I should respond. Many politicians are indeed opportunists, though not necessarily all. And many who do behave in an opportunistic manner on occasion do at least have a bottom line and a vision they start from, especially in NI. As has just been proven, this cannot be said of those who made up the Women’s Coalition. Once the going got tough, and it was costing them more to be involved in politics than they were gaining, they got going. That is unprincipled and opportunist behaviour, and is worthy of condemnation whether it’s Mary Lou McDonald leaving FF for the Provos to get a seat quicker, or Pat Rabitte leaving The Workers’ Party to get into government.

    The notion that I’m applying this to the WC because they are women is ridiculous. Maybe you missed my snide reference to Alliance and quangos.

    As for this notion that politics in NI is the way it is because it’s male dominated – I wish those who argue that way would show me some evidence. I can point to women involved prominently in sectarian violence and terrorism, and in sustaining the political culture we have. What can you point to?

    In terms of the way their Assembly members were treated. Yes there were sexist comments. but there’s more to it than that. Assemblies/parliaments are rumbunctious, which a great deal of abuse and slagging. Look at how Martin McGuiness started his career – making fun of the naked Sammy Wilson. And surely the DUP make as much fun of the UUP and others as they did of the WC? My opinion is that true egalitarianism involves treating everyone the same regardless of gender, colour, religion etc. That means the same level of political debate with the NIWC as with any other party.

    As for the notion they represented a real attempt to bring about a new politics. Once again, what social policies did they have? What could they have had given their disparate nature? And now the GFA is in danger, and needs everyone who voted yes to pull for it, what do they do? Bugger off home (or to sinecures). That’s vision and commitment to a new NI if ever I saw it.

    They damaged the NI body politic, they did not help it. At a crucial time when the Agreement was being negotiated, thousands of votes and a seat at the table went to an organisation that was quite frankly established by the NIO as a puppet that could have gone to a serious party that wouldn’t run away.

  • IJP

    It’s easy to criticize the Women’s Coalition – I for one can’t really see how dividing society by gender rather than religion helps a huge amount. But I will say that, proportionately, the Women’s Coalition achieved more in 10 years than most people criticizing it would in 100 years.

    missfitz and beano

    I hear what you say about the Alliance Party. Not least because I had similar views about it when I joined – to some extent, I still have!

    However, the question I’d ask you to consider is what are you going to do about it?

    Are you going to wait around for “somebody else” to create this cross-community party you speak of, or are you going to get stuck in and try to create it yourselves?

    Alliance is a democratic party. If you don’t like its education policy, its stadium pronouncements, or even its election strategy, come and have a say! You might be surprised how many people agree with you…!

    That’s what I decided to do, and I don’t regret it. The simple fact is, in this life you’ll make more difference inside than outside.

    But whatever you do, don’t just sit around waiting for others – either set up your own party or join ours, the worst that’ll happen is you know you tried!

  • missfitz

    IJP

    That is a very kind invitation, and of course what you say is right. Its much easier to sit outside the tent firing balls than inside the tent (that analogy is going nowhere)……. but you know what I mean.

    Joining Alliance wouldnt work for me as I have been such a tart in the past, but perhaps it would work for some others.

    And of course, you are right, if it bothers you that much, set up a new party. For that much, I think the WC deserves some credit. They had the balls (?) to make that decision, and do something about it. What they did is open to criticsim indeed, but they didnt moan about it, they took action.

  • Busty Brenda

    Missfitz,

    I have to disagree with you re the WC, I personally found them a joke. They never once reached out accross class lines, they were a middle of the road, middle class womens party, and in my opinion more of a political wing of the WI than a main stream womens party. To make a sexist comment we can do better than those old hags, who at the end of the day did use the party for opportunity and not much else. No wonder they were the subject of sexist jokes in the chamber, they deserved it. Never once did I cringe when I heard the jokes about them, I laffed right along with the boys!!

    However, on the other hand we have a bunch of women in politics who have ridden on the coattails of husbands, equally deserving of our humour but for some reason do not get it.

    I still believe we need a platform for women in politics in N Ireland, but a genuine platform that will represent issues that women face. We do have single issue parties, and single issue candidates like the independent doctor who stood on a single issue. These parties and independents serve a purpose. They give a voice to people with issues who would under normal circumstances find it difficult to get heard, or not get heard at all.

    For example, one evening in Clonard monastary when m mcguinness was speaking, a nun got up and give him a piece of her mind on abortion. I never knew contemplative nuns were so political! LOL But there is an example of women feeling passionately about issues but whose voices are definitely not heard. I spoke to some nuns after wards and they told me the only people who were totally against abortion and pro life were Ian Paisleys party!! I got the impression that if pushed they’d vote for him on that issue alone. There are principled voters out there, especially women who are not heard simply because they are women and have chosen a particular life style, whether in the home all day or in caring professions, and they are truly in my opinion silent voters.

    BTW thanks for the info on the screening, I knew they had lowered the age limit, but I believed it to be mainly for women who were at risk rather than a general policy of screening women younger, which was intended to be my point, but I posted much too early this morning and wasn’t properly awake LOL.

    Missfitz, now that you have accepted the idea in principle, I would like to e mail mick and propose your good self as a voice to represent women on slugger. I know you’d be good at it, as for me – maybe another time, as I still have too many family commitments just now to give it any realistic attention, tho I am honoured at your suggestion.

    Garry, can you enlighten me on the bald man and the comb fight LOL can’t say I have heard of it.
    As for the naked sammy, those pictures still haunt me.

  • missfitz

    Funny thing, I went on the Alliance site and was taken aback at how many women are councillors. Surprised mostly cos no one seems to make much of it.

    I think that’s one thing Alliance sorely misses, a good PR team.

    My role in FF, back in the days, was working with Seamas Brennan when he was General Secretary. He was dynamic and charimatic back then, and it really impresed on me the need to have that kind of excitement and energy being generated on the ground.

    In much the same way, thats the reason for SF success in the polls. They really connect with the voters in that old fashioned, shake your hand, hows your cat kind of way.

    Brenda, I found your story about the nuns and Paisley interesting. He doesnt top the poll cos of his looks, he is a very good example of a brilliant constituency politician. When the day comes that we can step outside our religious confines, and learn to appreciate people on their own merit, there might be quite a few more that would agree with Paisley with his conservative views.

    As to blogging, well, its a surprise to be asked, but sure I could give it a go and see what happens. If Fair Deal can do it……….

  • Busty Brenda

    LOL I have sent off the e mail, lets see what happens.

    fingers crossed eh?

  • missfitz

    By the way

    Any comments I made about Alliance should not reflect on the individuals presently doing the job. Please dont interperet anything I wrote as direct criticism

  • PaddyReilly

    Nicholas Whyte, I’m afraid I do not accept your correction:

    “People are routinely elected with much less than a quota of first preferences. The effective threshold is more like 8% or 9%.”

    “Unionist parties are still getting over 50% of the vote when all is combined”

    It may be possible to get elected with 8% of the first prefs, but you need to accumulate over one seventh of the total vote to get elected. This the Womens Coalition is able to do, because they count as a centrist party, and pick up transfers. But a party which represented one of the extremes, Sinn FĂ©in for example, would be stuck with 8% and not pick up a seat. But this is irrelevant, because the Womens Coalition is more like a 1% party, so the system they agreed to is no use to them.

    Equally, it is not the case that Unionists can rely on over 50% of the vote. At the 2004 European Parliament elections, working on a single constituency, they gained only 48.6% of the first preferences. They may have got a slightly higher percentage in the subsequent Westminster election, but that was a constituency based election and in half the constituencies no centrist was standing.

    So all in all the 6 county electorate is a more moderate entity than the representatives the system elects for them. Which is what my point is.

    As regards the Good Friday agreement, it is my recollection that it began with the Unionists and Sinn FĂ©in glaring at each other, and the ice was only broken when the Womens Coalition and possibly the Alliance representatives started on about power sharing systems. Perhaps someone who was actually there could confirm or refute this. Certainly Messrs D’Hondt and Opsahl were not present, so some other party must have brought their ideas up.

  • missfitz

    Wasnt there a wee man called George Mitchell who had a little to do with all of that as well?

  • Rapunsel

    Garibaldy

    Some good points there. I think it has been clear for a long time that NIWC as a party could never last for many of the reasons you outline. I have heard the line again and again that it was the women here that held society together during through out the conflict. I’ve never believed that and your point that it is not only men who are guilty of sectarianism I wholly agree with. A more cogent analysis in my view is that things didn’t get worse due to an increaded stalemate and perhaps due to several large shipments of IRA weapons being intercepted.

    I do think that they did manage to get more women involved in politics and community activities. I met and know some of the older members and they certainly weren’t in it for career development opportunities. I didn’t realise they claimed to be such a broad church becausde those I knew would typically be liberal left — possibly natural old labour in the rest of the UK.

    I’m not so critical though. A commitment to helping to change a society doesn’t have to come through a political party and why should people waste their energy on a hopeless cause instead of getting on with other things. I’m thinking of the likes of May Blood who from my experience has been committed to working for the rights of workers, people in the Shankill and to build better relationships for years. Where I would be more critical of her is for taking the seat in the Lords that being in the NIWC!

  • IJP

    missfitz

    Again, PR is something I’ve been responsible for since August and am trying to improve. I welcome all ideas.

    We did run a “Women on Top” (!) feature in February/March that was fairly well covered in press (including local papers across NI). However, we don’t like to comment too much because it would look like we were deliberately putting people in positions “because they’re women” – and we don’t do that.

    As to you having been a tart, I accept that is a problem but provided you’ve been cleared by the IMC and decommissioned your handcuffs… 🙂

  • I spoke to some nuns after wards and they told me the only people who were totally against abortion and pro life were Ian Paisleys party!!

    ———————————

    Its not as impossible as you might think. I’ve heard of at least one voter who votes for Paisley on the abortion issue alone.

  • páid

    Oh I’ve come in from the pub and have to get it off my chest. This business about women politicians and breast screening! What a lot of crap!!!!!
    I am a male. Like most males I’ve got a mother, sister, daughters, wife/girlfriend etc? It’s a bit insulting to suggest female politicians would push the breast screening more than males. Breast screening, prostate screening, let’s be honest, would any person of any gender be unfavourably disposed to the best screening and treatment for all.
    Women quotas? No problem. 50% women in govt? Bring it on.
    But please don’t tell me women are needed to sort out breast cancer.
    It’s a human disease. End of story. Sort it out.

  • crataegus

    Of course the Women’s Coalition and Alliance did themselves in. They more than anyone else were responsible for the GFA, but they devised a political system designed to eliminate the smaller parties:

    From memory the Women’s Coalition along with Labour, the PUP and the UDP supported a voting system devised either by the Green Party or Democratic Left which had PRSTV (as now), but with a NI wide topping up mechanism based on the number of 1st preference votes cast. Don’t have the details but struck me as workable and clever at the time. (Does anyone have a copy of this or knows where to find it? Would like to re-read.) However David Ford and the Alliance did not support that proposal. I assume that they saw themselves as a small main party and did not want a system that would enable smaller parties with support scattered throughout NI to be elected. I thought big mistake from an Alliance point of view. It also meant that the UDP did not get anyone elected and I think that would have been desirable at that time.

    The structures were due to the collective incompetence of many and an effort to ensure inclusivity, not for everyone but for the main sectarian blocks.

    I would agree with Nicholas Whyte, yes there was the Opsahl report but there were quite a few submissions and ideas doing the round and in additions endless meetings, by one and all, with government ministers and civil servants.

    I would place a lot of the blame on the Civil Servants and thus the governments. They were focussed on the need to get an agreement and I feel ignored much of the advise regarding the downside of some of the proposals. Many of the shortcomings were predicted and despite warnings they did not devise a strong fall back position.

    As for the Women’s Coalition an opportunity wasted because the basic premise was fatally flawed and was not critically questioned when being formulated. Doomed at birth.

  • crataegus

    pid

    What about forming a party for men, the gender who built this civilisation. You know the ones that are the leading composers, artists, engineers, architects, and even cooks. The ones who invent aeroplanes, computer chips, and unravel DNA and all those silly things that men do at the sacrifice of family life. The sacrifices made that go unnoticed, the school plays missed, the junior dancing competitions, the friendly tongue wag with the neighbour. You know its hard to drag yourself away from the dishes to configure the PC, but we know duty calls.

    We could campaign for prostrate cancer screening for the lads, better sports facilities to keep society fit, and all those things that only men properly understand or have an interest in. We could encourage strange hobbies like blogging, vintage cars and train societies. Think how much richer our society would be,

    What should we call the party, may as well go the whole hog and call it testosterone.

  • Labourman

    Sorry to burst some bubbles, but Baroness Blood is a Labour Peer.

    It won’t make any difference until we get Labour to organise here, but Blair’s party has a policy of 50% women candidates. That is not just candidates, but candidates in winnable seats.

    It will take a long, long time to reach “winnable”, but the policy is already in place.

    There is also an interesting development on Labour organization calling for a joint Irish / British approach at http://www.labour.ie/northernireland/statement2006.html .

    Time for the two Labour Parties and local unions to step up to the mark.

  • missfitz

    PID
    For your information, breast screening is only available on the NHS for women over 50. This differs from most other Western European counrtries where the entry age is 40.

    In NI, Action Cancer provides this service to women from 40 years old. They also provide testicular screening for men,

    They receive no core funding from government and exist solely on fundraising.

    I certainly never suggested that cancer screening of any sort be taken on board by any gender of politician. As I have said earlier in the thread, I do not support single gender parties or seeing issues being compartmnetalised in that way.

    On the other hand, it has been my experience that certain politicians can take an issue and run with it. For instance, in the days of the last assembly, I was trying to get someone to become interested in the subject of supporting money advice services, along the lines of what has been done in the South.

    I tried politicians of all genders and political views but in the end, it was a female SF politico who took the information and started to run with it.

    On a human level, some people will feel more comfortable with issues than others. But that should never exclude anyone from becoming involved in such an important issue.

  • Busty Brenda

    pid,

    Glad you got that off your chest. The screening was an example, but you could have picked out some of the others given, for example women raising families alone? (not sure if that example was given but lets take it anyway) Single issue parties, single gender parties, why does it bother you so much.

    Hoping to see you take up the offer of the other poster and get men organised. some of them have already done it, ie fathers 4 justice to name one. Now if someone would take that issue and run with it I wonder would your male pride stop you from running with it. Lets face it unmarried fathers are gonna have to get organised or settle for the status quo. So if you ain’t in wedlock, or your sons brothers or male relatives are in relationships outside of wedlock, you may want to warn them of pitfalls LOL especially if their kid gets sick and when they take it to hospital they cannot sign for treatment, the mother has to do it, even if the guy is on the birth certificate. Not to mention the thorny issue of access!!

    so take up the other posters offer and get men organised .

    phew glad to get that off my chest, and I wasn’t even at the pub last nite LOL

  • páid

    I knew I shouldn’t go on slugger after the pub! Apologies if I offended anyone. It is , of course true that women offer a vital perspective on life not offered by men. (erm, that’s why I said 50% quotas – bring it on :-)).
    I just don’t think women should push the breast cancer agenda, while men push the testicular cancer agenda. Resources should be allocated on the basis of human need.

    As for a men’s party, C, I like the name. How about
    testosterone (P)- test o’sterone (RC)?

  • Busty Brenda.

    pid,

    I agree there are issues affecting men, and issues affecting women, and there are issues of human need. BUT often times it boils down to resources and who gets a bigger slice of the cake. True men do not take their health seriously and the issue of testicular cancer etc are often ignored, but that does not mean to say women should not lobby for a bigger slice of the resources that are available.

    If that is the case then I would vote for a single gender/issue party, if there was an issue I felt strongly enough about. I am not in favour of fighting from within. Why, because in political circles women are outnumbered, and in order to give our issues a fighting chance then IMO we need to fight as a group.

  • páid

    and the best of luck to you, BB

  • missfitz

    PID
    I was going easy on you, but making a point, knowing how it feels to come home from the pub and let rip on slugger. I now dismantle my laptop when imbibing, but I am not suggesting everyone else do that as it would ruin the fun..

    Seems we all agree on this one, health issues are common to us all, have never yet heard of protestant cancer and catholic cancer, so can we unite cross gender and cross religion?

    We can add it to the small but growing list of

    “Things we agree on”

  • smirkyspice

    lol @ test o’sterone

  • crataegus

    PID

    We need to be careful here in case we cause a split along Nationalist and Unionist lines.

    There is a serious point though there are inequalities of treatment some of which Busty mentions, and others like cancer screening. Basically society expects men to work until they drop. Even how we frame our law reflects that, until recently we even had the difference in pension age.

    Gender based politics is a road to no where and as for the role of the Women’s Coalition not sure that they had any lasting legacy. Indeed by diverting able women into a cul-de-sac may have had achieved the opposite to their intention. If they had not been there they would have been replaced by Greens at the negotiating table, and to my perception they are similar so what difference would it have made?

    Labourman

    Very interesting hope you manage to pull it off. The border has hopelessly divided the centre left, but if it can unite it will be curtains for Alliance and it may grow into a grouping that is a real contender. People say that it is the border stupid, hence SF-DUP axis. I wouldn’t be as sure about that as there are a significant number utterly brassed off with all the sectarian parties. What has been missing is a grouping that can represent that group that stand for something other than being nice and has some prospect of being an electoral force.