Saturday, 27 February 2010

Putting Irish Unity on the Agenda (2)

Another speaker at the Sinn Fein sponsored conference Putting Irish Unity on the Agenda was Margaret Ward, who was described as an author and historian.   In the course of her address she described herself as 'a representative for the women's sector in the Bill of Rights Forum' in 2008 and indeed she is very much to the fore in the 'women's sector'.

This is not her first time on a Sinn Fein platform and she was the speaker at a conference organised by Sinn Fein in March 2009 in Belfast to mark International Women's Day.  On that occasion she was introduced as chair of the Women's Centres Regional Partnership.  Acording to its website the WCRP is funded by DSD and is made up of four lead partners, one of which is the Women's Research and Development Agency, represented by Margaret Ward.

Dr Margaret Ward has a long political history stretching back to her days in the People’s Democracy. Then in October 1975 she was a founder member of the Socialist Women's Group, which was established by some of the most radical feminists.  It was a Trotskyist republican socialist group and it linked feminism to socialism and to Irish nationalism. According to Margaret Ward herself they ‘tried to link women’s oppression, partition and the imperialist domination of Ireland’. She further explained the Trotskyist nature of the group by saying ‘it was women who came from various places - from People’s Democracy, the Revolutionary Marxist Group and the Irish Workers’ Group - together with ones of us who hadn’t really a notion.’ The PD, RMG and the IWG were all Trotskyist organisations.  [A Difficult Dangerous Honesty p 17]

Carmel Roulston has also confirmed the distinctive political character of the SWG and she observed that, 'The Socialist Women’s Group members were for the most part involved in or associated with the Trotskyist or pro-IRA left.  [Women on the Margin p 226]

Another of her current interests is Hanna's House in Dublin, of which the WRDA in Belfast is a participating organisation.  This is named after the Irish republican revolutionary Hanna Sheehy Skeffington and it is perhaps significant that in 1997 Mary Ward wrote a biography of Hanna Sheehy Skeffington.

At the Bill of Rights Forum Margaret Ward was one of two representatives of the women's sector but she is hardly representative of the majority of women in Northern Ireland and that is an illustration of one of the fundamental flaws of the Bill of Rights Forum.  It was simply an unrepresentative body.

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