Visit by Yvonne Galligan
Professor Yvonne Galligan, a lecturer in woman’s politics at Queen’s University, visited the Politics Society last Friday 1 March 2013.
Professor Galligan began by describing her experience of monitoring elections in Macedonia, while working for the Council of Europe. She explained how men would take the voting cards from their wives and daughters and vote on their behalf, undermining their rights. She pointed out that this problem was not limited to Macedonia, but happens all over the world.
Professor Galligan shared statistics from the last Assembly election to show how the different parties compared when it came to putting woman up as candidates in constituencies. The Alliance Party, SDLP and Sinn Féin faired significantly better than the unionist parties when it came to fielding woman candidates but even those parties had no more than 25% of female candidates. Professor Galligan then went on to show how many female candidates went on to get elected to the Assembly. Again the Alliance Party and Sinn Féin were the best parties when it came to having a larger proportion of female MLAs but the overall percentage of woman in the Assembly was still only 19%. This is obviously not right considering woman make up 50% of the population.
Professor Galligan continued by showing us how educationally, a higher percentage of woman leave school with 3 A-Levels and go onto university, asking the question, why is their such a low percentage of woman in politics? Professor Galligan then presented research conducted by herself and a colleague on the public’s view on female participation in politics. The results were startling. They showed that 2/3’s of the Northern Irish population said that they supported the idea of more female politicians; although woman were more likely to support the idea than men, the bigger difference was shown in age. People between the ages of 50 and 65 were the most supportive – Professor Galligan suggested that this was because this age group grew up during the time that the civil rights movement was in its prime. This gave them a more liberal view on gender equality and they consider it to be very important.
Professor Galligan was the first lecturer the Politics Society has welcomed but, following this meeting, she certainly won’t be the last as she gave us a lot of useful information in enhance our understanding of the political landscape.
Jamie Woods Chairman of the Politics Society