Women in politics will always a be a popular topic of conversation as long as genders remain largely unbalanced in governments. Ireland's new Taoiseach Leo Varadkar came under fire this week for his largely male cabinet but not too far away, female leaders are standing proudly at the forefront of their respective political parties. We have compiled an infographic on some of the prominent women in politics in Northern Ireland and the UK.
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Nicola Sturgeon - Scottish National Party Leader
Nicola Sturgeon was elected as First Minister on 19 November 2014. As the first woman to hold the position and the first female leader of any of the devolved UK administrations, Nicola’s commitment to equality has been clear right from the outset.
Independence for Scotland is still Sturgeon’s main concern. In an interview last September, Sturgeon admitted this “transcends” everything else for her, including Brexit and the economy.
Under Sturgeon’s leadership, the SNP completed the electoral sweep of the city in the 2017 council elections. Sturgeon added: "The SNP has won the council elections. We have more votes, more seats and are in the driving seat of more councils than any other party. SNP councilors and SNP councils will put their communities and the people of Scotland first."
The SNP is now the largest party in 16 council area - up from 10 in 2012 - and joint largest in a further three councils.
Naomi Long - Alliance Party Leader
As a teenager growing up in the 1980s in East Belfast, Naomi Long had “a general interest in current affairs. She saw politics as being positive for the first time when her local Alliance councilor John Alderdice helped her resolve a problem with her student grant.
“That was my first experience of positive politics - of politics being a solution to a problem,” she said. “That had an impact on me and is one of the reasons I value the constituency work that I do.”
On 26 October 2016, Long was elected Alliance party leader.
Theresa May - UK Prime Minister and Conservative Party Leader
She became Home Secretary in May 2010 when the Conservatives joined with the Lib Dems to form the first coalition government in 70 years. She was the second longest serving home secretary in the past 100 years.
Her career took a major turn when David Cameron resigned as prime minister after the Remain campaign lost the EU referendum that he called for in 2016. The country was in a state of political uncertainty and needed a new leader. In July 2016, May was chosen by Conservative Party members and figures to become the party's new leader and the UK's new prime minister.
May has enjoyed a turbulent time as Prime Minister since calling a snap election back in April 2017 and is now facing tougher times as the Conservative effort was ultimately a bad campaign. Other events in recent weeks such as the Manchester bombings and the Grenfell Tower fire have put pressure back on her party as she is left to pick up the pieces and hopefully find support in Arlene Foster and the DUP to form a majority in Westminster.
Arlene Foster - DUP Leader
As leader of DUP, Foster is also First Minister of Northern Ireland. Foster survived the 2016-2017 Renewable Heat Incentive Scandal, which was also dubbed the “Cash for Ash” Scandal and centered on a failed renewable energy plan in Northern Ireland.
Foster refused to resign, but the late Martin McGuinness, the leader of Sinn Féin at the time and the Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, resigned out of protest. As a result, there was a snap election in March, which resulted in the DUP losing 10 seats. But Foster remained the party’s leader.
Even though most Northern Ireland voters wanted to remain in the European Union, Foster supported Brexit. Her party was the only major party in Northern Ireland that supported it. Recently, Foster told Sky News that she doesn’t want to see a “hard border” created between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. After all, Northern Ireland is the only country of the U.K. that shares a physical border with an EU country.
Michelle O Neill - Sinn Fein Leader in Northern Ireland
Born Michelle Doris on 10 January 1977, she was raised in the village of Clonoe in rural County Tyrone and hails from a family of prominent Irish republicans. Her father, Brendan 'Basil' Doris, was a former IRA prisoner who became a Sinn Féin councilor in Dungannon.
When her father stepped down from Dungannon Borough Council ahead of the 2005 election, she won the seat he vacated in the Torrent electoral area. She would later become the first woman to hold the post of mayor in the borough.
Her assembly career began in 2007 when she joined Martin McGuinness and Francie Molloy as a Mid Ulster MLA. Michelle O Neill became Sinn Fein’s leader in Northern Ireland in January 2017. Mr. McGuinness, in handing over the baton, described Mrs O’Neill “as a young woman of incredible ability who has risen to the leadership of Sinn Féin in the North”.
Caroline Lucas - UK Greens Party Joint Leader
Caroline was elected as Member of Parliament for Brighton Pavilion in 2010. She served as leader of the Green Party of England and Wales from 2008 to 2012. And from 1999-2010 she served as one of the Party's first MEPs and represented the South East region until becoming the UK's first Green MP. Since the 2nd of September 2016, Lucas has been one of the leaders of the Green Party of England and Wales, a position she shares with Jonathan Bartley.
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