Belfast Telegraph

Alliance's McAllister in bid for councillor maternity leave after missed meeting report

Alliance’s Nuala McAllister with her son Finn.
Alliance’s Nuala McAllister with her son Finn.
Gareth Cross

By Gareth Cross

Former Lord Mayor Nuala McAllister is to bring a motion before Belfast City Council to allow representatives maternity leave.

The Alliance councillor was speaking after The Irish News revealed that she had not attended any Brexit Committee meetings over the past six months.

She also revealed that during the period she hadn’t been living at her home “because of a threat to mine and my families security due to speaking up in politics”.

Ms McAllister, who is Alliance’s Westminster candidate in North Belfast, defended her absence saying it was due to her “being a young mother, on maternity in a particularly difficult political climate”.

She said she had been forced at times to take her newborn and toddler to council meetings less than six weeks after giving birth. Ms McAllister gave birth to her first son Finn in 2016, while second son Art arrived in November 2018.

“I will make no apologies for putting my family first,” she said.

At a full council meeting on Monday the councillor said she would be bringing forward a motion to address the issue.

“In politics women are not entitled to any maternity leave whatsoever,” Ms McAllister told her fellow councillors.

She said that Alliance councillors Kate Nicholl and Sian Mulholland were not in attendance at the meeting as they had just given birth and were taking maternity leave.

“They are entitled to some family time themselves and I would just like that put on record,” she said.

MPs similarily MPs have no provision for maternity leave. Earlier this year Labour Stella Crasey advertised for a “locum MP” to carry out constituency work on her behalf. However, they would not be able to cover her position in the Commons.

Ms McAllister said that if she was elected in North Belfast her work as MP would not be affected as “that would be my day job”.

She added: “When I was Lord Mayor of Belfast, I used my position as a new mother to highlight how inclusive a city Belfast could be for families and how we need more young women to get involved in politics.

“When you’re not entitled to maternity leave you do your best to make it work in politics. It’s long past the time when things have to change so that more young women feel confident enough to put their heads above the parapet and push for change.

“My party’s commitment to remaining in the EU and the future of NI is not a game, we take Brexit seriously and anyone questioning that or targeting women in this way without any account of context should be ashamed.”

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