Improvements in female representation in the Stormont Parliament are discussed in terms of the enormous obstacles facing women from the beginning. The representation of women increased to 28% in the 2016 election:
The reasons for this (historically low representation of women) are many and complex; traditional religious views of gender have prevailed and shaped conservative cultural attitudes. A core principle of the peace-process was that people involved in The Troubles era politics had to be given parliamentary seats and as women were much less likely to be involved in violence, they were essentially excluded from the peace process as negotiators felt less of an impetus to include them.
Stormont’s ‘women problem’ was encapsulated when Ian Paisely Junior insisted on shouting ‘moo moo moo’ to mimic a cow when members of the Northern Ireland Woman’s Coalition spoke in peace process talks in an attempt to drown out their voices.