Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 April 2014

20 years on, politics here is still stuck in the men’s locker room

The statistic that six out of 10 women here can't be bothered with local politics shouldn't surprise anyone.

Why should they? Local politics doesn't want them except as voting fodder and makes the barest effort to understand what concerns them.

Want evidence?

We currently have 19 female MLAs — out of 108. Up certainly from the recent past but probably the lowest proportion in any legislative house in western Europe.

The one female party leader, Margaret Ritchie, was hounded out of office because she was allegedly unphotogenic and didn't come across well on TV.

She was replaced by Alasdair McDonnell, among whose first words as leader were “Turn those lights off” as he blinked in the glare of TV cameras.

He is, of course, still party leader. Because it is acceptable to be all those things — if you are a man.

Women know that much of “involving them” in politics amounts to little more than window dressing.

All those DUP wives, all those ‘quota women' of Sinn Fein, don't mean a thing, really.

Sinn Fein, for all its posturing about equality, scores the lowest of the major parties among women. They know a snowjob when they see one.

Despite 20 years of ‘peace' our politics is still the stuff of men's locker rooms. Lots of testosterone and macho posturing but very little else.

Which was fine when we were at each others' throats. But now they have to deal with issues that directly effect women — prices, employment, a stable economy, welfare, being a carer, the health service, crime — our political class simply don't have a clue except to parrot secondhand mantras.

If it's not Sammy Wilson's ‘no pain no gain' clubhouse aphorisms, it's the radical chic of SF and banana republic economics.

The truth is, even when they talk about important things, we know that their hearts are not really in it.

Any old off-the-peg policy will do to patch up the gaping void where real politics should be.

Even women, empty-headed chits that they are, can see that.

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