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Stormont row: MLA quits Miss Ulster judging panel as Arlene Foster compares 'damaging' beauty contest to Father Ted skit


JoAnne Dobson MLA

JoAnne Dobson MLA

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster has issued proposals for reform of the Consumer Council

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster has issued proposals for reform of the Consumer Council

Megan Fearon

Megan Fearon

©William Cherry/Presseye


JoAnne Dobson MLA

A Unionist MLA has withdrawn from the judging panel of the Miss Ulster beauty pageant, as it was dubbed "embarrassing" and "damaging to young girls".

JoAnne Dobson, UUP MLA for Upper Bann, withdrew from the judging panel Miss Ulster 2013 on Tuesday - days before it takes place at Stormont on Saturday.

The UUP confirmed the news in response to a Belfast Telegraph enquiry.

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster has called upon the Assembly members who have sponsored the competition to rethink their support for the event, which has rules for entrants to be between size 8 and 12 and at least 5' 7" tall.

Ms Foster said at its most benign it "sounds very like Father Ted's Lovely Girls competition".

She added: "With so many young girls facing peer pressure about their image, competitions structured like this are deeply unhelpful and could be damaging to their self-esteem.

"Beauty is not limited to girls between size 8 and 12.

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"Today my colleague Paula Bradley spoke to an academy of almost 100 young women who are interested in politics in Stormont. She was embarrassed that the discussion was on this event and not on major policy issues.

"Many of the young women were deeply unhappy about the event structure and the message it was sending out. Those MLAs backing this type of event should think again."

Sinn Féin spokesperson on women issues, Megan Fearon MLA, called the contest "an embarrassment".

"The issue of equality for women has still not been achieved and promoting a competition where women compete against each only to be judged on their appearance reinforces the attitude of women as sex objects and second class citizens and is embarrassing," she said.

"The fact that to enter this competition you need to meet a tight criteria also discriminates against the vast majority of women.

"This criteria has stereotyped the look that many young women believe they must match otherwise they are not attractive. This has lead to issues such as eating disorders, lack of confidence, anorexia, depression and even suicide of young women.

"Women deserve to be treated with equality and respect and not judged on their appearance."

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