Gender and Party Politics in Northern Ireland
RICK WILFORD AND YVONNE GALLIGAN
The political dynamics of the divided society of Northern Ireland are markedly different from those obtaining in the Republic of Ireland. For that reason the opportunities and the constraints confronting women in the public realm of politics are, in turn, more limited and more formidable. Yet over the longer run in terms of numerical representation, the records of women on both sides of the border are not entirely dissimilar even though Northern Ireland has been denied a regional parliament since 1972 and women have fared badly at national and, more recently, European levels in comparison with their counterparts in the Republic.
If we apply the hybrid model of party policies towards women elaborated in Chapter 9, namely gender reinforcement, gender neutrality, gender recognition, and gender facilitation, broad comparisons of similarity and difference may also be inferred in terms of women's interest representation within parties on each sidof the border. This can be accomplished in two ways: indirectly by examining the position of women within the various party hierarchies in Northern Ireland and more directly by exploring party policies on gender issues.
Before turning to the first of these measures, we will underline briefly the distinctiveness of Northern Ireland's political system and, more particularly, the effects this system exerts on women, whether or not they are active in the realms of overt politics. Perhaps the most convenient, but nonetheless relevant, point is that the party system is a dual one: that is, there are endogenous and exogenous dimensions to the pattern of electoral competition within Northern Ireland's segmented society. In effect,