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Monday, 19 March, 2001, 14:05 GMT
NI Women's Coalition

The Northern Ireland Women's Coalition is a small party which decribes itself as non-sectarian.

Founded in 1996, it draws support from all areas of the community and supports the Good Friday Agreement.

The party says it wants to give women a voice in Northern Ireland politics.

It does not take a position on whether Northern Ireland should be British or Irish.


Do the larger parties think there can be a future without women?

Kate Fearon

The party has two representatives in the Northern Ireland Assembly, founder members Monica McWilliams and Jane Morrice.

It also has one councillor, Anne Carr, who sits on Down District Council.

It has criticised the bigger parties in the past for not fielding more women candidates for office.

Kate Fearon, a member of the party's talks team, said at the time of the assembly election in 1998: "These are the most important elections in living memory.

"Do the larger parties think there can be a future without women?"

Moderating influence

Assembly member Monica McWilliams
Assembly member Monica McWilliams was a founder member of her party

Many members of the Women's Coalition come from a trade union or community activist background.

Others say they draw on experience from careers as health professsionals or in the field of education.

The party says: "Our members are united by our core principles of human rights, inclusion and equality.

The Women's Coalition has been regarded by some commentators as a small but significant moderating influence in Northern Ireland politics.

Transferred votes

In the negotiations which led up to the Good Friday Agreement, its main claim to fame was the drafting of a section of the peace deal on the victims of the Troubles.

A study of transferred votes from and to the Women's Coalition seems to bear out its claims to have support across the sectarian divide.

In the assembly election many transfers from Women's Coalition candidates were divided out mainly between the Alliance Party, the SDLP and the Ulster Unionist Party.

Sinn Fein voters in south Belfast also transferred in significant numbers to Ms McWilliams after their candidate was eliminated.

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