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Editor's Viewpoint

Stormont needs to catch up with times and be accessible for all



Kate Nicholl at Stormont with her baby daughter

Kate Nicholl at Stormont with her baby daughter

Kate Nicholl at Stormont with her baby daughter

As a modern, progressive society, we expect all people to be part of it.

And that means the NI Assembly should be setting the example for all to follow.

It shouldn’t have to wait until a new mother turns up before facilities are in place.

Alliance MLA Kate Nicholl, newly elected, and a mother for the second time just three weeks ago, hit the headlines in 2020 when, as a Belfast councillor, she brought her four week old son Cian to City Hall.

She had a mother’s job to do as well as her role as an elected representative.

Now she’s found there’s work to do at Stormont as well.

We all want to see the NI Assembly as reflective of the society we live in as possible, and that means it needs to be a welcoming place for all.

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But welcoming isn’t quite enough — it needs to be a practical place for all to work, and that means encouraging more young women to the Assembly.

There should be no barriers. Opportunities should be equal for all.

That means setting the example by providing the necessary arrangements for young mothers to do the job they’ve been elected to do.

“Despite having had a female First Minister and Deputy First Minister, as well as fantastically strong female party leaders, the support simply doesn’t exist for women MLAs with babies and young children,” the Alliance MLA tells us today.

Other young mums should be able to follow her path.

The same goes for people with disabilities. Ulster Unionist Andy Allen is no newcomer to the political scene at Stormont.

He has represented the East Belfast constituency since 2015, is in a wheelchair and has partial blindness following an injury he sustained in Helmund, Afghanistan.

“I’m very keen to make sure that they are continuing to do everything they possibly can to make the building as accessible as it possibly can be, not only for people who work in the building, but also the general public coming to visit the building.” Mr Allen said.

Belfast has just played host to the Harkin Summit focusing on increasing employment of people with disabilities. Hosting it in Northern Ireland was a major boost to those with disabilities.

But people should not be achieving ‘despite’ their disabilities. Stormont should be catching up with the times and giving everyone who seeks election an equal opportunity to do their jobs to the best of their ability.

In 2022 we should be supporting those who choose to work in whatever sphere they decide. An example needs to be set.

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