Women shaping Belfast celebrate with Lord Mayor
21 May 2018
Belfast Lord Mayor Councillor Nuala McAllister has paid tribute to ‘Women Shaping Belfast’ during a reception at City Hall as she prepares for her final few weeks in office.
Women from across the city representing a range of organisations including business, community, sport, statutory and voluntary groups were invited to celebrate their achievements, share experiences, and make new connections.
“I am delighted to welcome so many inspirational, hardworking and successful people to City Hall and to highlight the role that women have made in shaping Belfast into the forward-looking global city it has become,” said the Lord Mayor.
“For so long, women’s power was confined to the home but once it was unleashed we have been able to contribute our skills using them to bolster the economic, civic and social success of our society.”
Councillor McAllister added: “I look around the room and see imagination, flair, inspiration and success in every corner and realise how far we have come since the Suffragettes first fought for public recognition, equality and the right to vote for women.
“During my year as Lord Mayor, I have had the opportunity of meeting so many inspirational people – men and women – but as we mark a centenary year celebrating Women’s Suffrage I thought it particularly important that women in particular recognise how far we have come in all spheres of life.
“Let us continue to work towards a system where all human beings are recognised and appreciated for their talent irrespective of gender, colour, creed, disability or sexual orientation. A society where ability is what counts and inspirational people are recognised for encouraging others to take the leap, to lend a hand and help us all be the best we can be.”
Welcoming fellow speakers, Baroness May Blood, and Catalyst Inc Director of Development, Dr Joanne Stuart OBE to the event, she said they had always proved themselves open to helping others achieve – Baroness Blood through her community and trade union activism aimed at improving the lot of women, and Joanne through her work to encourage more women into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and her mentoring of young people.
Baroness Blood, born in a working class area of Belfast became the first woman from Northern Ireland offered a seat in the House of Lords. She began her working life at 14 in a mill and got involved in the trade union movement to improve working conditions and advance the role of women, she was a founder member of the Women’s Coalition and closely involved in the Northern Ireland Peace Process.
“Life in the mill as a 14 year old was not easy; the hours were long and the conditions generally unhealthy, but there was a great sense of camaraderie, women helped each other through. I was impelled by this strength of camaraderie to fight, along with others, to improve conditions and advance the role of women,” said Baroness Blood.
“Women have been to the forefront of the peace process, even if they appeared hidden behind the scenes; we were working for a better future because women are the heart of so many communities.”
“The strides we have made not just in our working lives but in life generally has been astronomical in my lifetime. Women have taken their place as equal citizens alongside men - they have become Prime Ministers, they are builders and engineers, they have travelled to the International Space Station, they have been transformed into people who have a voice,” added the Baroness.
“I am proud that I have played a part in helping to make that happen it shows that when we work together we really can change the world. As we share our experiences today I hope we can make it easier for others coming behind or where there are particular difficulties to inspire them to keep fighting for what they believe is better.”