Assembly needs to recognise its diverse make-up and ensure better representation, says Armstrong

Kellie Armstrong International Women's Day

The Assembly needs to recognise it is comprised of people elected from all walks of life to serve the people of Northern Ireland and take action to ensure that representation, Alliance MLA Kellie Armstrong has said.

Ms Armstrong was speaking during a motion signed by her and representatives of all parties and independents, calling for a gender-sensitive Assembly. It follows a report from the Assembly and Executive Review Committee, and endorses recommendations from the Assembly’s Women’s Caucus to attempt to achieve that.

“It is fitting this debate took place today, on International Women’s Day and I hope the call for a gender-sensitive Assembly will be heeded,” said the Strangford MLA.

“Despite the original report being published six years ago, we are still in 2021 still asking for a gender sensitive Assembly to be introduced. There are many steps can be done to accomplish this to create the environment to recognise the Assembly is comprised of people from all walks of life. That includes allowing MLAs to have maternity or paternity leave, or changing the language to refer to positions instead of madam or mister.

“Alliance has played a crucial role in female representation in the Assembly – former Deputy Leader Eileen Bell was to date the only female Speaker, while former MLA Judith Cochrane has been the only woman who has had a Private Member’s Bill reach Royal Assent. That is something I am hoping to change, with my own Bill on integrated education currently making its way through the Assembly. But we need to help foster the conditions to encourage and facilitate others who want to do similar.”