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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2000, Vol. 3 No. 1 .

Women's Work: The Story of the Northern Ireland Women's Coalition
Kate Fearon

(Belfast: Blackstaff Press, 1999 )
184pp. Index. Bibl. Pb.: 11.99; ISBN 0-8564-9653-8

Kate Fearon, Political Advisor to the Women's Coalition has taken the lead and become the first author of a book about the remarkable birth and growth of the NIWC. As an insider involved from the beginning she tells the story from that perspective having supplemented her own observations with many interviews with other key personnel. I suspect many of those involved directly and certainly those of us who observed events with interest will read this book with delight. For those interested in both the Peace Process in Northern Ireland and in women's participation in democracy the book is essential reading.

The speed with which the decision was taken to launch the party and the subsequent sharp learning curve for all those involved must have meant that few had time to reflect on the processes they were involved in. This book describes in easy prose the process of setting up the party, the first election and team building. Details on participation in the Forum and the Talks are presented and finally putting the Agreement to the People and the process of election to the Assembly where Monica McWilliams and Jane Morrice were elected is detailed.

As a descriptive account the book provides sufficient detail and is a valuable contribution to contemporary history. The energy, excitement and hard work of all those involved are recorded and the whole resounds of a vibrant and invigorating process. It is hard to believe, however, that there were not more days when despair ruled; when the negativity of other parties wore the NIWC down; and when it was impossible to believe that the aims they had set themselves would ever be realised.

The goal of making sure women's voices would be heard has been met, with a cross-community ethos the NIWC has ensured a presence for women in the Assembly and it is to be hoped that this is the start of increased political participation for many more women.

Gillian Robinson
Research Director, INCORE

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