Swimming Against the Mainstream: The Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition

Authored by: Kate Fearon and Monica McWilliams

Categories: Peace Support Operations, Statebuilding
Sub-Categories: Democratization and Political Participation, Peace Accords, Peacemaking, Political Transitions
Country: Northern Ireland
Region: Europe and Eurasia
Year: 2000
Citation: Fearon, Kate and Monica McWilliams. “Swimming Against the Mainstream: The Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition.” In Gender, Democracy and Inclusion in Northern Ireland, edited by Carmel Roulston and Celia Davies, 117-137. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2000.

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Executive Summary

The Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition (NIWC) was created out of the frustrations and aspirations of women from a diverse range of backgrounds and affiliations. The majority of these women had been, for many years, concerned about the exclusion of women from mainstream politics in Northern Ireland. All of them hoped that the opportunity to create a lasting peace would not be wasted and believed that women had particular experiences and insights which could help to move the process forward. Within weeks of its foundation in April 1996 the Coalition had achieved an historic success: the election of two of its members to the Northern Ireland Peace Talks table. In this chapter, we describe the origins of this almost unique party and discuss the ways in which its distinctive and new values and methods of organising were constructed. Its interventions in the mainstream of politics will be discussed, as will some of the responses from the established parties. A central theme will be the dialogues among women from the unionist, nationalist and other traditions and affiliations within the Coalition.