“Women who manage to sound cooler than the men they face in public confrontations…”

Interesting perspective in today’s Irish Times from Fionnuala O’Connor on how Margaret Ritchie’s Ministerial colleagues have been unable to keep her from effectively communicating her position, (even if they have effectively stalled her from action).

Robinson was at pains to emphasise that his objections to Ritchie’s decision owed nothing to sympathy for the UDA but were entirely to do with the way she took her decision.

But his initial magisterial “I am very disappointed in Margaret Ritchie” gave way to the old instincts. She was not entitled to “tout around” outside the executive for legal advice which would bolster her case, he told a radio interviewer.

In a society still feeling its way towards civility in politics, language matters. This early in the game, it sets teeth on edge when a senior DUP figure uses such an ugly description of a Catholic woman colleague, whatever the merits of her decision-making. Sympathies initially went towards Ritchie in Stormont, though she risked losing that first advantage by beginning to sound less than calm.

Bullying is a DUP characteristic. It was worth identifying as the tactic she faced, maybe better left without the personal testimony of “I will not be bullied”.

In the predominantly male world of Northern politics, women who manage to sound cooler than the men they face in public confrontations make the most impact.

Clearly the deadline fell before the Deputy First Minister’s own contribution: “I think Margaret needs to stop losing the run of herself.”

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

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