Ulster feminist seeks European stage for reform: Mary Clark-Glass's campaign uses the cross-party strategy that won Mary Robinson the Irish presidency. David McKittrick reports

AN audacious attempt to emulate the campaign which made Mary Robinson president of Ireland is to be launched in Belfast today with the announcement that Northern Ireland's best-known feminist is to stand for Europe.

The campaign intends to bring together a mixture of political and non-political elements to challenge the dominant unionist and nationalist parties.

The candidate will be Mary Clark-Glass, who recently stood down after eight years as head of the Northern Ireland Equal Opportunities Commission. She is to be nominated by the non-sectarian Alliance Party to contest next year's European elections.

Alliance is a middle-of-the-road party that has traditionally been squeezed by the Unionist groupings on one side and nationalists on the other, generally taking less than 10 per cent of the vote. The question is, can Ms Clark-Glass create a momentum in the North similar to that which took Mrs Robinson to the presidency in the South?

The attempt will provide a real test for the often-voiced claim that many voters are dissatisfied with their political representatives and could be attracted by a different type of candidate.

Mrs Robinson's success will clearly provide a model. She reached beyond the traditional support for Labour, the party that nominated her, and built a coalition with support from a wide range of community groups, in particular women's organisations.

Many similar groups exist in Northern Ireland, most of them shying away from party political involvement. To stand any chance of success, Ms Clark-Glass will have to mobilise people and energies not normally associated with conventional politics.

Northern Ireland is notoriously resistant to political change, and the campaign faces many obstacles. Probably the most formidable is the constitutional issue, centring on the Alliance attitude to the border. It is the only party whose membership includes appreciable numbers of both Protestants and Catholics but its overall stance is seen as anti-nationalist.

Northern Ireland's three European MPs are elected under an anomalous arrangement that treats it as a single constituency, with candidates seeking votes from all parts of it. European campaigns tend to have presidential overtones, with the largest votes traditionally going to the Rev Ian Paisley, the Democratic Unionist leader, and John Hume, the leader of the nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party.

Ms Clark-Glass was born in Wales but has lived in Northern Ireland for more than 20 years. After graduating as a mature student, she became a law lecturer and first came to public attention as a broadcaster on legal and consumer matters. She has served on many public bodies.

Northern Ireland's leading female trade unionist, Inez McCormack, said yesterday that if Ms Clark-Glass could avoid being given any party label she 'will bring a breath of fresh air into a very stagnant political situation.'

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine