Sunday, 8 March 2009

Same Struggle - different means

My interest in politics developed, through the experience of being English born of Irish immigrants, in the early 1980’s. I thought about joining the Labour Party but I didn’t know how to, and never thought that standing in the High Street shouting and selling newspapers was for me. At University I was persuaded that the Labour Party could be home for the aspiration and experience of more than the highly visible and fairly noisy male. I learned that organisation is crucial but there are different ways to organise, that there are techniques to learn to make different voices heard, that throughout the world those without power organised to take power. That power, voice and influence is never given.

In the intervening 25 years I have never doubted that women should organise and take power, and on the left we have. However, I have doubted the capacity of any political party to change to realise our aspirations and do more than acknowledge our experience, I am dismayed by the sexist nature of attack on women in politics, the over promotion of males, the lack of younger women coming forward to take winnable positions in political parties. I looked at some political blogs and welcome the launch of left blogs but rather like newspaper selling didn’t feel it was for me. Now it is a matter of time and relevance. Following the debate with Gordon Brown on Mumsnet and most debates on Labourlist etc is exactly like comparing my conversations on the doorstep to various General Committee meetings through the years. I know the struggle is the same but I have been persuaded the means must change and to join political women taking our place in the blogosphere, it is certainly much warmer than the High Street and I look forward to the debate. Also in those 25 years Ireland and the political experience of the Irish has been transformed. However I write as soldiers are shot in Antrim. On International Women’s Day I would like to dedicate my thoughts to their families and the hundreds of women who have worked across the sectarian divide in Ireland to bring peace to their communities. It was they, not Bill Clinton or Tony Blair who forced the peace process. Let us hope they have the strength not to let the boys and their guns take us back.

Karin Smyth

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