Culture and Politics in Northern Ireland, 1960-1990

By Eamonn Hughes | Go to book overview

6
Women in Northern
Ireland: an overview

Monica McWilliams

In presenting an overview of the women's movement in Northern Ireland, this essay will begin by discussing some of the dominant influences on women's lives. The role which both the Church and State play shapes not only the more traditional thinking behind some of the major institutions, such as the education system or the judiciary, but it is also responsible for the extremely conservative ideology for which the Province has become infamous. It is undoubtedly the case that both Church and State have combined together in ensuring that the prime role of women is as mothers and housewives. In the face of such traditional Catholicism and Protestant fundamentalism it has proved extremely difficult for women to organise around issues which are of personal and political importance to them. Feminists when raising issues relating to sexuality, the dissolution of marriage or equal rights in the home or at work, face a good deal more opposition, not only from clergy and politicians, but also from within their own communities. The fact that they have gone some way down this road in organising and politicising around such 'controversial' issues is a testimony to the strength and determination which women here have to drag Ireland kicking and screaming into the twentieth century.1

The backwardness of the Northern Irish state can best be seen by the reaction to legislative change in the Province, particularly on issues of sexual morality. The Free Presbyterian Church organised a campaign to 'Save Ulster From Sodomy' to counteract Jeff Dudgeon's case to the European Court in 1982 which resulted in homosexuality being decriminalised. Despite this move, the Catholic Church still holds the view that 'objectively,

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Culture and Politics in Northern Ireland, 1960-1990
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Ideas and Production ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Contributors vii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • 1: Introduction 1
  • 2: Northern Ireland: A Place Apart? 13
  • 3: 'Why Can't You Get Along with Each Other?' 27
  • 4: Cuchullain and an Rpg-7 45
  • 5: The Labour Party and Northern Ireland in the 1960s 69
  • 6: Women in Northern Ireland 81
  • 7: Economic Change and the Position of Women in Northern Ireland 101
  • 8: Notes on the Novel in Irish 119
  • 9: Field Day's Fifth Province 139
  • 10: Intellectuals and Political Culture 151
  • Index 174
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