Belfast Telegraph

Women still being left on sidelines in Northern Ireland politics: Harman

By Rebecca Black

Former Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman has voiced her concerns that many more men than women are elected representatives in Northern Ireland.

The veteran Camberwell and Peckham MP was speaking ahead of delivering the keynote speech today at the launch of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission's annual statement.

"Women in Northern Ireland have, like women all over the UK, struggled for their rights. And I pay tribute to the remarkable progress that they've made in the last decades.

"But there is still a long way to go before women in Northern Ireland are on equal terms with men," she said. "Men outnumber women in local councils by three to one. And in Westminster Northern Irish men outnumber women by four to one. That means men making decisions and women on the sidelines. As we look ahead to the centenary of women getting the vote, it's long overdue for that to change."

Ms Harman will deliver a speech on the role of women in public and political life during the NIHRC launch at Stormont this afternoon.

NIHRC chief commissioner Les Allamby said his organisation's annual statement raises a number of concerns.

"There is not a single green light for the UK government, Northern Ireland Executive or any relevant public authority denoting an effective response to addressing specifically identified human rights issues in Northern Ireland," he said.

"The lack of progress reflects the absence of a working Northern Ireland Assembly throughout this year. Strategies to promote gender equality, improve the circumstances of people with disabilities, and to enhance the lives of LGBTI individuals, as well as to tackle poverty based on objective need, all remain on the drawing board.

"An extremely concerning issue is the matter of children going missing from care and the high levels of these children who are at risk of sexual exploitation.

"Immediate and joined-up action by all agencies with responsibility for the protection of our most vulnerable children is needed. The commission continues to monitor and support the work of the police and health and social care bodies, who are seeking to improve an unacceptable situation."

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