Are women making their mark in political leadership?

Regardless of whether you agree with their politics or not, the appointment of Michele O’Neill as Sinn Féin’s leader in Northern Ireland should be welcomed.

Northern Ireland, potentially, could have female First and Deputy First Ministers. Of course that depends on how votes are cast on 2 March, however we now have women leading our two largest parties and if nothing else, it shows that it is possible to reach the top.

Combine this with the leadership of Naomi Long for Alliance, the Green’s deputy leader Clare Bailey, and the candour of Nichola Mallon and Claire Hanna; it appears that women are beginning to make their mark in terms of political leadership.

Being a woman doesn’t automatically make you a good leader, although neither does being a man. Clearly, having a woman leading the country doesn’t mean we will see the automatic advancement of the myriad of issues we all face. From everyday sexism, woeful reproductive rights, shocking assault and domestic violence figures, or misogyny, in the true sense of the word, there are many challenges still to be tackled. Please feel free to add your own to the above list.

The point I am making is women are seemingly becoming more visible in the political sphere.
However it is not enough to be satisfied that a handful of women have ‘made it’. There were just 30 women elected to the Assembly in 2016. That’s not even 30%. And my question to all the parties is what are your plans to improve the situation?

I’m quite sure there will be comments made in response to this blog along the lines of ‘sure anyone can put themselves forward’ and ‘people need to be selected on merit not gender’. I agree. But what if the best candidates feel unable to put themselves forward or get involved due to reasons that aren’t visible to you? Women’s influence in many aspects of life, including politics, are limited by institutional, systemic and individual barriers, both overt and hidden.

Serious political will is needed to address gender imbalance in public life including targets for the number of candidates being women. This needs to go hand–in-hand with some grass-roots action to empower women to get involved.

It is only right that half the population of Northern Ireland should be properly represented.

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  • Kevin Breslin

    You don’t have to be a party leader to be a political leader, I would say Jo Anne Dobson and her transfusion bill was one of the major acts of leadership seen by any MLA of any gender in recent times.

  • Patrick Mac

    Women don’t want equality. What they do want, however, is to supplant men in every sphere of life, particularly politics.

  • Annie Breensson

    That could prove to be a major improvement.

  • larry hughes

    All but given up on SF Croppy approach. Unionists are not a majority any longer and DUP antics are prehistoric and unacceptable. If O’Neill can find the backbone that Martin McGuinness threw away maybe SF will be worth a vote again n the future.

  • Gaygael

    Where is your basis for that tripe?

    I think most people support the concept of equality.

  • tanyaj

    As Sara says, the fact that “a handful of women have ‘made it'” sadly doesn’t mean that the barriers to women’s participation in political life have disappeared. If women have to be more ambitious and more determined in order to be selected for winnable seats in the first place, especially in traditionally conservative parties, it is likely that they will have the extra momentum required to reach leadership positions. It may even be that, consciously or otherwise, there is a feeling within those parties that the choice of a woman leader will take the heat off other selection procedures. I’ve written elsewhere about Margaret Thatcher and her ‘drawbridge feminism’. Whatever the gender of their leaders, it might be a useful exercise for all parties to look, as the Green Party has, at the barriers to women’s involvement at all levels. Not all women want to be leaders, but many of us feel that we might do a decent job as a councillor, MLA or backbench MP. A truly equal system would make that an unremarkable ambition.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Puir wee mannnie. Are the big, bad wummin giein yi a hard time, eh? Time ti grow a perr an no be sae feart.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Aye! Gaun yersel, Annie.

  • Patrick Mac

    Yes, but what is the implication of this ‘equality’ you speak of ?

  • Brian O’Neill

    We all live happily ever after?

  • Jag

    On a serious note, in 2017, I think there are two obstacles to women participating further in politics (1) women tend to be the primary carer for children, that’s changing and perhaps there’ll be equality in a generation, but politics is a 24-hour job and children are a drag (2) politics is combative and frequently aggressive, we’re not quite Ukrainian with Assembly members crossing the floor to beat seven bells out of the Opposition, but canvassing, clinics, protests, public events and media appearances can all be intimidating. Women are equal to men for much of this, but we’ve all seen particularly aggressive confrontations which deter women.

    I think a 25-30% participation rate is reasonable and not a cause for concern. 5% of the population is supposed to be gay but there’s not a single (openly) gay MLA.

  • Jag

    So rare to see Ulster Scots speakers on here!

  • Patrick Mac


  • Katyusha

    Go on, then, elucidate this for us. Enlighten the poor naive lost souls.

    What do you think the implications of “equality” are?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    An acquaintence with some of Boney’s other, earlier posts, Jag, would have shown that he’s Scots-Scots………..

    “All that glitters…….”

  • Patrick Mac

    A simple question to answer Kat. The so called ‘equality’ that the moaners bleet on and on about is nothing more than an accommodation platform, ‘double-speak’ if you will. A platform that permits persons of certain persuasions to get their grubby mitts on power levers, when they in no way deserve it.

    ‘subjugation’ is another term I could throw in to the argument, meaning that the left, liberals, socialists and worst of all champagne-socialists, multiculturalists too (I must not discriminate) and other assortments would dearly love to subjugate their opponents, perceived or otherwise. Right?

    ‘subterfuge’ is another, ie. large scale deceit and lies, much like the new President in the USA has already elucidated many times.

    For those of a conservative leaning Kat, the double-speak, subterfuge, and subjugation really shines through the fake rhetoric of the left, who have been getting away with their fakery for what must be coming on six decades at this stage. Time for it to be called out for what it is.

    Oh, I left out the feminists, with their weak, feminist shaming tactics. How chauvinistic of me, no?

    Damn, I forgot about the greenies, the veggies, the vegans, the tree-hugging enviro twits who believe in the false doctrine of global warming (now known as ‘climate change’) and who use it to shut down legitimate industry and business.

    Its all coming to its end my dear, I can assure you.

  • Croiteir

    I wonder about the philosophy behind the piece which is alluded to in the last sentence, which I take to mean that only males can properly represent males and females can properly represent females. This is a very worrying outlook on life.

    However if you accept that generalisation then why stop there. To what extent do you carry this out? Do you wish to say the same about homosexuals for example, and why restrict this to gender, why not make it racial?

    In order to carry this out properly the only proper means to deliver this is to have a male and female panel which allows you to vote for the two blocks which have equal seats.

  • Zorin001

    Hows that tinfoil hat fitting?

    EDIT: God help me for engaging with this but really??

    Subjugation and Subterfuge by the Left eh? I’m sure the Right are squeaky clean and would never indulge in such practices. I’m sure Gamergate and Breitbart are simply figments of my imagination and the Klu Klux Klan weren’t applauding the election of Trump.

    Lets get real, a large portion of Trump boosters are overjoyed they finally get the chance to put the Blacks/Jews/Gays/Trans (delete as applicable) back under heel.

  • Patrick Mac

    ‘Societal stability’ Zorin, what is your interpretation of this term ?

  • Zorin001

    Fair and equitable treatment for all regardless of colour, sex or creed and the priority of a Government to ensure the well-being of its citizens through rational and proportionate means.

    Not dog-whistling about walls and immigrants and the co-opting of a populist agenda by stock brokers and millionaires pretending to be the “voice of the people”.

    Listen, the world has been built on immigration since the days of the very first traders and yes that has always brought with it an element of disruption; but there are better ways of dealing with it than putting up barriers and making scapegoats.

  • Patrick Mac

    Who built the whole project in the first instance Zorin?
    Who are its actual owners Zorin? You, and everyone else would be scraping in the dirt and dust without them.

    Like I said, subjugation, subterfuge, deceit and lie. The Western, developed world ‘wrong-footed’ the remainder and the remainder still has not gotten over the shock.

    Nothing is owed, too much has been given, little appreciation has been shown. Time to reverse the rot.

    Oh, and I am under no obligation to ‘listen’ to yourself, or any other whining liberal. Enough is enough, like the man said himself many times. Yer done, in other words.

  • Zorin001

    Ok, then I will listen; if you could wake up tomorrow in your ideal world what would it be like? How would we live, what jobs and prospects would there be, how would the different parts of the world interact?

    I’m genuinely interested in what you think an ideal outcome of the populist movement we are seeing would be.

  • Patrick Mac

    Know the following Z. Short term memories abound in the West at present.

    The USA saved so many, yet so little appreciation has been shown. But don’t stress yourself too much, as what has been giveth can be taketh back again.

    I would advise you to head off somewhere and have a long talk with oneself and to re-assess your world outlook. We are in very precarious times Z, with the possibility of a dirty/chemical/mini-nuke/mass casualty event a reality, not too mention a West vs East showdown.

    Like I said, you’re owed nothing. Silly mouthings and noise, is all your cohort are capable of, nothing more, nothing less.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    It’s no ‘Ulster’ Scots – it’s Glesga.

  • Patrick Mac

    Ulster Scots interpretation of the ice-age:

    Tha Big Snoo.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    You mean, of course “the US has killed so many (in the pursuit of profit)”. And try to inflict less of the “Silly mouthings and noise” on us – there are enough right-wing nut jobs around already.

  • Zorin001

    “The USA saved so many, yet so little appreciation has been shown. But don’t stress yourself too much, as what has been giveth can be taketh back again.”

    I think the Native Americans and the descendants of the Slaves may take a different view on that part.

    I agree with you on the danger of a mass casualty terror attack or an East V West showdown but I think a Trump presidency makes that much more likely than less. The problem is there are some (and in the Trump administration no less) who probably wish to see it.

  • Enda

    No one is owed anything, but we are all entitled to live full happy lives. The rhetoric from the extreme left, nor the vitriol from the extreme right are helping that entitlement become a reality for people the world over. There is so much shouting from both sides, that the quiet, thoughtful, pragmatic person who is stuck in the middle is being drowned out. The empty vessels have been shaken very hard, and they’re making a hell of a lot of noise, and most of the unsavory noise is coming from the small-minded, populist, isolationist attitudes of the extreme right, or at least from those who represent them.

    I don’t like a lot of ultra-liberalism. I don’t like political correctness being shoved down my throat. My liberal side is mixed in with my common sense, or at least I would like to think it is. I would also say the same about my conservative side.

    I believe that true liberalism is fairness and respect. It’s not agenda pushing to make the numbers look good, which I think is partially responsible for the rise in populism in the times we live in. So your frustration is not unfounded.

    I really don’t agree with your term ‘The USA has saved so many’ though. The USA has given us a material soulless existence. A lot of its policies are based around greed. It has been involved in illegal wars, and the mass murder of millions of the earth’s citizens in the 241 years of its existence. Internally the country is also obscene regarding its archaic laws on gun control, and its lack of empathy to its citizens concerning social healthcare reform. The good citizens of the US who firmly believe that regulations need to change on these two points, are shot down at every turn.

    Adding to that, the deplorable clown that now pulls the strings has the capability to destabilize the planet in a way not seen in almost 80 years. I’m not saying that it hasn’t also contributed to the world at large in some good ways, but the glass is half empty with me on that one.

    As for the headline of the article – if the women leaders in politics are the top people for the job, then they are exactly where they’re supposed to be. Time will tell, as it so often does.