Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Miss Ulster controversy: Where's the equality at Stormont?

UUP MLA Jo-Anne Dobson and the SDLP's Dolores Kelly quit as judges of the Miss Ulster competition.
UUP MLA Jo-Anne Dobson and the SDLP's Dolores Kelly quit as judges of the Miss Ulster competition.
Miss Ulster competitors Hannah Kinning from Carrickfergus, Claire Gunn from Carryduff, Melanie Johnston from Lisburn and Fiona Anderson from Holywood.
Miss Ulster competitors Hannah Kinning from Carrickfergus, Claire Gunn from Carryduff, Melanie Johnston from Lisburn and Fiona Anderson from Holywood.
Parliament Buildings at Stormont, Belfast, will host the Miss Ulster competition

The lovely girls are coming to Stormont. It could only happen here: a beauty pageant sponsored by politicians.

We seem to be quite determined to maintain our status as a benighted backwater where the calendar stopped in 1952.

Choosing to hold the Miss Ulster competition at Stormont – where vital decisions are made that can have a tremendous impact on the nature and quality of our lives – is crass, undignified and deeply provincial.

It would not be considered as viable anywhere else. I mean, really: could you see it happening at Westminster, or the Dail?

And no, it's not the same as holding a beauty contest in a hotel, or other kind of public space. Having it at Stormont adds a stamp of approval, an endorsement, if you like, that it approves of sexist proceedings.

The Assembly is almost united to deny women their basic reproductive rights – yet it's fine to host a competition judging women on appearance.

Your host for the night will be the NI21 leader, Basil McCrea. It was intended as a progressive party: free-thinking and inclusive. Wasn't there talk of commitment to fairness and equality, irrespective of gender?

The competition organiser, Michelle McTernan has said it was about "allowing young people to get involved in politics".

Swishing down the catwalk in a pretty dress is a wonderful way to get to grips with the mechanisms of devolved power.

As long as you aren't a size 14 or above, so lose those pounds, or get your politics elsewhere.

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