Northern Ireland isn’t ready for women leaders

Iris Robinson’s “predatory” behaviour won’t affect the prospects for women in NI politics, according to two people well versed in women’s roles, Susan McKay, now director of the National Women’s council of Ireland and Yvonne Galligan Director of the Centre for the advancement of Women at Queen’s. The two gender studies experts were being interviewed about the Iris fallout on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour. Not that those prospects are all that glowing, they might have added. Nor did they get round to discussing dynasties. Arlene Foster, the first woman head of an administration since Margaret Thatcher, is regarded by the DUP as a safe pair of hands : “It was a smart move to appoint one woman after the disgrace of another woman. But her appointment is purely temporary – “ even in the event that Peter Robinson doesn’t return… Northern Ireland isn’t ready for such a radical departureWith the notion of the armed patrimony, policing and justice would be seen as a man’s job” said Susan. She dismissed the view ( wrongly in my view) that Mo Mowlam was replaced because a change in political handling was needed though unionist sexism certainly came into it. But Susan’s main point is essential point is surely right about Mo: “She was referred to as a “Jezebel – a woman who was eaten by dogs because she didn’t obey her husband.. Many unionists thought the role of secretary of state wasn’t a suitable job for a woman.. Her replacement by Peter Mandelson was seen as putting a man into a man’s job.

Yvonne gave the stats for the Assembly, fewer than in the Scottish Parliament and welsh Assembly:

“17%, i.e. 18 women out of 108 MLAs, comparable to Westminster and the Dail.

Next question – are dynasties coming to an end and will this depress the number of women representatives? There must be other ways of getting name recognition than by being a mamber of the same family.

  • If Arlene suceeds in managing the current series of crises she should be retained as first minister and take over as leader and she is probably the last person the other political parties would like to see get it.

  • Drumlins Rock

    What a load of ****

    Its obivious to anyone Arlene is the best person for the job out of the ministers they have, nothing to do with “appointing one woman to cover the disgrace of another”.
    And the biggest problem with it turning permanent is she will always be a defector, whereas there are many other who have “earned” the top job more over the years.
    As for P&J “no job for a woman” it could well be a woman yet! who knows the Alliance could put Naomi forwards for the job and it didnt stop the SDLP nominating Margaret, I would agree there are not enough women and the UUP are the worst offenders, but we need more to take an interest and I dont mean the spouses of existing MLAs.

  • Drumlins Rock

    MU, I think you could easily see the split roles continue, with Arlene remaining FM and Nigel becoming party leader, at least for a while. As for the statment
    “Many unionists thought the role of secretary of state wasn’t a suitable job for a woman..” is there any evidence to support this? and how is calling a woamn a Jezebel any worse that calling a man a Judas, which the good Doctor called Jim Mol once.
    (BTW Jezebel was more of an evil tyrant, disobeying her husband was the least of here sins, and for Dr Paisley to call anyone either Jezebel or Judas is quite low)

  • alan56

    What just happened to Micks thread about journalism and the scandals? I commented about 3 mins ago and now it has disappeared….spookey or should I say spooks?

  • The fact that unionists did not like Mowlam was because she was not sympathetic to their views. Arguing that this was due to misogyny is just politically correct psychobabble. It is a bit like saying that nationalists didn’t like Mandleson due to homophobia.

  • Drumlins Rock,

    The explanation as to why Dodds did not get the FM job instead of Arlene does not ring true to me, as Robinson was surely not in a position of enough strength to dictate who temporalily succeed him?

    The DUP have complained about SF having the leader and DFM as separate people so not sure it is their ideal set up.

  • Christopher Devenney

    “Northern Ireland isn’t ready for women leaders.” Is this supposed to be some sort of joke? Northern Ireland isnt ready for policing and justice powers to be devolved but its more than ready for a “Women Leader!” Look at the amount of hassle this has caused even before it has been brought over.

    In my opinion Foster has done such a better job than Robinson and shes only been in the job for a week. Realistically Policing and Justice will be brought forth whether we have a woman as a leader or not!

  • Danny Boy

    ‘are dynasties coming to an end’?

    Political dynasties have proven themselves to be such an easy way to for the founding figure to see their life’s work destroyed that any politician with an ounce of sense will be telling their kids and spouses to get careers of their own. Doesn’t mean any politician will, though.

    Would an end to dynasties reduce the number of female politians here? In the short term, possibly, but it would still be a great thing for women in politics. We’ve never had a single great political matriarch anyway, and when even women in powerful positions are seen as handmaidens to their even more powerful male kin it doesn’t help change attitudes at all.

  • Henry94

    Drumlins Rock

    Its obivious to anyone Arlene is the best person for the job out of the ministers they have, nothing to do with “appointing one woman to cover the disgrace of another”.

    I think that’s right.

    Once Dodds didn’t want it as is being said then she was the only choice. If she was Alan Foster and Sammy Wilson was Samantha then it would still be Foster. Why do some people find it hard to accept the idea of a woman getting a job on merit alone?

  • Stephen Blacker

    The quality of women politicians here has proved that women are more than capable of taking on the role or even enhancing the role historical held by men in politics.

    A scenario that can happen here is, Dawn Purvis continuing as leader of the PUP, Arlene Foster becomes the DUP leader & Margaret Richie new leader of the SDLP. Now that would be new.

  • Henry94

    And with any luck Toireasa Ferris will be in the Dail and willing to serve when it’s time to elect a new leader of Sinn Fein.

  • Drumlins Rock

    that would be interesting Henry.

    Naomi is in line to take over the Alliance too, that just leaves the UUP, umm dont think Slyvia will be around by then! would Lady Daphne be interested? Almost forgot the TUV!!! any suggestions anyone?

  • FitzjamesHorse

    It is difficult to think that the PUP will actually be in Stormont next time round and with Margaret Richie at the helm, the SDLP will be about the same strength as the PUP.
    Having said that… Arlene and McIlveen the only “unionists” women at Stormont.
    At least this is one direction where the nationalists have actually moved ahead of the unionists. As I pointed out in another thread the DUPs “Christianity” is at variance with the actual supporters.
    Having said that some of the nationalist women are not exactly brilliant.
    But did we really need Susan McKay AND Dr Yvonne Galligan to say more or less the same thing on Womens Hour.
    QUB has an excellent record in finding interesting “departments” .there is incredibly a Conflict Resolution Dept where the brightest and best will travel miles to Damascus and Jerusalem to advise on conflict. It would of course be beneath the brightest and best to walk to Damascus Street and Jerusalem Street on St Patricks Day.
    Ths we can NOT take a QUB contribution seriously.

  • Stephen Blacker


    Toireasa Ferris would be a good young voice who is pretty clued in.

    Drumlins Rock,

    Yeah i forget about Naomi, I think she is the one to challenge Peter Robinson in East Belfast for Westminster.


    It would be terrible if the people of East Belfast do not get behind the very excellent politician in Dawn Purvis.

  • FitzjamesHorse

    Mr Blacker,
    the fact is that the PUP has only one MLA. Whatever the merits of Ms Purves asa public representative, her election or non-election will in part be due to the popularity or relevance of her Party at that time.

  • FitzjamesHorse

    Of course 90 men and 18 women in the Assembly is a disgrace but hardly a “Universal” problem.

    The SDLP scores 4 from 16
    SF scores 8 from 28 elected in 2007
    AP scores 2 from 7
    (prolly in line with norms)
    No UUP woman in 18
    3 DUP from 36 elected in 2007
    (on that side of the House it is a problem)

    The answer of course lies with the Voters (based on who is actually ON the Ballot paper) …and 50% of the electorate are….you guessed it…women.

    No point in the Dept for Women in Poltics at QUB preaching to the choir among politicians, academics and journalists….plus the occasional trip to the Shankill Road or Twinbrook to talk to real women..

  • Stephen Blacker


    Maybe if more women were put forward by parties there might be more people vote.

    I look forward to Dawn Purvis finishing 4th, again, in East Belfast come the next Stormont elections.

  • Panic, these ones like it up em.

    Let the women rule.

    These homogeneous white men are boring the pants off me and they are mostly useless.

    Give women ago. Especially at the banks. Look what testosterone filled wide boys have done for the lot of us. And we all know that the testosterone filled boyos are just itching to do the same thing again.

    Save us from the testosterone or at least have some sort of a limiter on people in powerful positions

  • granni trixie

    Drumlins Rock: do you know something that I don’t? (re “Niamoi is in line to take over Alliance”). The fact is that Alliance people are very content with DF as leader and if for some reason he stepped aside, there are a number of people as well as Niaomi capable of leading – a great position to be in?.

  • Alias

    Mandy is a woman in a man’s body and Maggie is a man in a woman’s body. As for Mo, well she had a cognitive disorder but medical ethics overrode the public interest and we were not informed.

    Nigel Dodds is probably the most capable person in the DUP after Peter Robinson. If the future belongs to Arlene, then be grateful that your a region of a unitary state and that the generous subvention keeps you in a style that you have not earned. 😉

  • Alias

    your = you’re

  • Comrade Stalin

    Agree with the other posters, I think Arlene got the job because she was the best fit on many different levels, not because she was a woman. It’s actually quite offensive to suggest that her gender was anything to do with it, especially when it quite plainly wasn’t.

  • slug


    Not so long ago you were tipping Mary Lou.

  • Henry94


    Somebody younger and prettier always comes along. Ask Peter Robinson.

  • Storm

    Yvonne Galligan didn’t even get her facts right – it’s actually now 16 women in the Assembly as Carmel Hanna was replaced by a man and then there is the vacant post for our dear Mrs Robinson.

    Arlene got the job because she is the better candidate amongst the current DUP Ministers. My understanding is that they could not select Dodds because he is not a Minister.

    The problem here is that political parties are not putting forward more women. remember the quote from Plato, “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.”

  • 0b101010

    And with any luck Toireasa Ferris will be in the Dail and willing to serve when it’s time to elect a new leader of Sinn Fein.

    “Willing to serve” being the key-bloody-quote when it comes to Toiréasa Ferris.

    Toiréasa Ferris, who only came to admit that she “didn’t want a career in politics” after spending months lying to her electorate that she wanted to represent them in Europe.

  • joeCanuck

    Northern Ireland isn’t ready for women leaders

    Of course it isn’t.
    The reason? It’s presently dominated by oul male fogies, many of whom think a female politico’s job is to make tea and biscuits. Never never never let the wimmin say anything.

  • KateMcC

    Iris’s disgrace will have no impact on the number of women in politics. Iris’s affair packed such a punch because of her own hypocritical rantings about homosexuality and evangical moral superiority which came crushing down around her.
    Thankfully Iris is not representative of women in NI. I doubt she would have made it in politics without her husband. The same cannot be said for Arlene who is a very capable politician.
    Many men would not be in politics either only for their connections.
    Nepotism is rife throughout politics in the North and although connections matter in every walk of life, politics is an area in which you can hide inadequacies, your name just has to be on ballot box, people vote in party not person.
    One just has to listen to Paul Maskey!

  • Storm

    Nepotism and cronism is not only rife in politics – it’s everywhere. Maybe some people should let go and let others who are more capable take on the challenges. Arlene is a cut above the rest and should remain as leader. Wonder if she will win Politician of the Year at the next Slugger Awards! So Mick here is my nomination…