Congratulations Dawn Purvis!

After yesterday’s slightly dark look at the failure of our devolved government to have half a clue about pretty much anything that matters, especially that which matters to women, it only seems right that I acknowledge one particular winner at the Slugger Awards last night.

Dawn Purvis scooped MLA of the year, nominated by Slugger readers and named victorious by a panel of journos, bloggers and general PR-y type people. I’m delighted she not only won but also received the biggest cheer of the night from the assembled crowd in the Black Box. As one of her East Belfast constituents it’s always a source of pride to be represented by someone who doesn’t play the sectarian game and has a genuine desire to do the best with what we’ve got and try to build a vision for a peaceful and progressive Northern Ireland. Importantly for women, she is one of the most openly feminist MLAs and has risked her support base, her seat and even her party leadership to advocate for the extension of the 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland.

In Dawn we have a female representative who believes in women and understands that equality has to be fought for. At the same time she also understands the nuances of the NI political arena, tries not to alienate those who disagree but stands up for what she believes when a principle is on the line. When she spoke to defend the party’s position on reproductive rights after it was challenged in a debate at the party conference in October, she gave a passionate defence of this policy as core to their priniciples of social justice and equality for all. I was almost bursting with pride and hope as party members voted with her.

Dawn is not the only reason to be cheerful when it comes to female representation. Anna Lo is the only other openly pro-choice MLA, again placing her passion for women’s rights above the temptation to not rock the boat. As our only MLA from an ethnic minority community she has overcome a double barrier to achieve the support of her constituents and have a voice for some of the most vulnerable people in Northern Ireland. Barbara de Bruin is an excellent advocate for women’s rights in Europe and as an MEP has used her role to help push forward the kind of social policy we seem to be a bit slow to wake up to over here. And I was gutted when I heard of Carmel Hanna‘s plans to leave the Assembly as she has been an inspiring female politician who, along with Anna, has been really active on the issues of sex trafficking and sexual violence that have plagued South Belfast in recent years.

So there you have it. Those women are out there representing us. They need us to engage with them, to speak up when decisions affects us, to hold them to account. to congratulate them when they do us proud. And maybe eventually, some more of us will join them…


3 Responses to “Congratulations Dawn Purvis!”

  1. 1 Sepian January 25, 2010 at 5:34 am

    Carmel Hanna’s primary role re: sex trafficking was to be in charge of DELNI when it gave ( illegal) work permits to Jerome Brennan’s club. She didn’t attend any of the sex trafficking events which I organized. The CATW issued press statements for our campaign.

    The last PSNI ‘rescue’ Anna Lo endorsed was planned as a reality Tv stunt at Paul Goggins office (OCTF) 15 April and didn’t happen until six weeks later.

    “At a meeting on 15th April 2009 the NIO was advised by PSNI that they had received a request from the BBC to film a live trafficking operation, the request was being considered and it was possible the BBC might be invited to film a day of action planned for the following month.”

    The Chinese women were ‘rescued’ six weeks later – if only to star ( via an involuntary capacity) in a reality TV stunt as described. The PSNI shifted the operation towards greater syndication.

    They had to wait until the TV production was right.

    The PUP are linked to what was a straightforward sectarian death squad – what can one say about that?

    As for SF, well they have their problems as well it has to be said – at least SF were honest, they always refused to meet visiting sex trafficking or child protection experts etc.

    Their military wing didn’t like the Geneva accords much either.

  2. 2 soisaystoher January 26, 2010 at 12:01 am


    Thanks for the comment. It’s interesting to hear from someone like yourself who appears to be working on the issue of trafficking here in Northern Ireland. Admittedly, my own knowledge on the subject is quite superficial and I would really like to develop that a bit, particularly with the recent legislative changes on powers to prosecute punters and tackle the ‘demand’ side of the process which sustains this awful sexual exploitation. I would love to talk more with you about your experience. Drop me an email to if you’d be willing.


  3. 3 South Belfast Feminists February 13, 2010 at 6:04 am

    The email is a C/O until our Portadown meeting – people are coming up from Dublin.

    Demand side is being administratively decriminalized by the UKHTC, ACPO, PSNI and their friends – legislation simply isn’t worth tuppence if the ACPO et alia doesn’t want to do it.

    London campaigners are short on policing savoir faire. The ACPO like the Punternet ( as knights in shining armour) solution. Legislation in Britain is virtually worthless without the ACPO agreeing to do it, no budget, no prosecutions.

    The anti-sex trafficking group in South Belfast is going to Portadown next week to organize island-wide resistance to Anna Lo and her cronies.

    South Belfast Feminists

    “However, South Belfast Alliance MLA Anna Lo, who estimated in 2008 that there were some 70 known brothels across the Province, was more sympathetic. “We have to be realistic,” she said. “It is better for sex workers to be in brothels as it is a safer place for them to be than the street. I am not here to judge them. Some of them may be exploited but many feel it is the only way they can make a living.”

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