Belfast Telegraph

Lady Sylvia Hermon: We should be thankful for the sacrifice of those who struggled for votes for women

By Lady Sylvia Hermon

When I won the North Down seat in 2001, I remember being acutely aware that I was not the first, but the second, woman to represent the constituency at Westminster.

The first woman MP for North Down, Patricia Ford, had been elected unopposed in 1953, after the tragic death of her father, the then MP, who perished in the sinking of the Princess Victoria ferry.

She was in fact Northern Ireland's first ever woman MP, and it has always been a bitter regret to me that we never met to compare notes on our impressions of the House of Commons.

Every time I have fought a General Election, I have been very struck by the sheer number of women of all ages and backgrounds who will tell me that the reason they will definitely be voting is because other women died so they could vote.

The long hard struggle for women's suffrage may have been 100 years ago, but its cost still has the power to inspire women and girls to become involved in public life.

Thoughts of that struggle often come to mind and, every time they do, I still shudder at the appalling hardships endured by those hundreds of women who went to prison, those who were force-fed and those who died to win the right for me to vote. Would I have endured as much suffering as they did?

Who knows?

I'm just very relieved my generation wasn't put to that test.

And I am also very pleased indeed I have been able to enjoy the great privilege of representing the people of North Down as their second woman MP.

Lady Sylvia Hermon is the MP for North Down

Belfast Telegraph

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