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RHI: I don't buy Arlene Foster's sudden awareness of misogyny

By Clare Bailey MLA

The misogyny claim is a crude attempt by the First Minister to detract from her central role in the Renewable Heating Incentive scheme fiasco.

Arlene Foster has responded to the fiasco by scattergunning blame. Blame the civil servants, blame her political opponents, blame Jonathan Bell.

So, now that she has thrown almost everyone under the bus, Arlene Foster describes as misogynist those who seek to scrutinise her actions and hold her to account accordingly.

Perhaps the First Minister should consider the definition of misogyny - it describes the hatred, dislike and mistrust of women. I supported the no confidence motion back in December, but I do not hate Arlene Foster as a women, or indeed as a person.

What I do hate is £490m potentially wasted on the scheme and Arlene Foster's refusal to accept responsibility for this financial fiasco. I also hate that public confidence in the Assembly ebbs away as the First Minister and her DUP colleagues circle the wagons and lash out at anyone brazen enough to call for accountability. I do accept that there is misogyny in local politics. I have experienced it in my political career and I make it my work to promote gender equality.

But, I don't buy Arlene Foster's sudden awareness of misogyny in politics when she has done little or nothing to promote gender equality during her time in politics.

Arlene Foster has slapped down attempts to modernise abortion law in Northern Ireland. She has shown little interest in promoting the rights of our LGBTQ citizens. And, let's not forget that the DUP has opposed gender quotas for women in politics here despite woeful levels of female representation in political and civic life.

I would be more than happy to work with anyone to promote gender equality and social justice in our society. For example, I would suggest that the Executive develops a childcare strategy to support working mothers and publishes a gender equality strategy as two of many critical actions.

The Green Party has opposed misogyny as well as other forms of social injustice such as homophobia, racism and sectarianism in a consistent way. Given the First Minister's newly-fangled awareness of misogyny, I'd be delighted to work with her on issues such as the childcare strategy, gender equality strategy and marriage equality.

However, I'll not hold my breath while I wait to hear from Arlene Foster.

Clare Bailey is deputy leader of the Green Party in NI

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