>One of mine and politicians of all persuasions over the weekend was the sight of Dawn Purvis being eliminated from the count in East Belfast. Last year after the UVF the paramilitary group associated with the Progressive Unionist Party of which she was leader murdered Billy Moffett, she stepped down as leader and resigned from the party. She was a vibrant and feisty member of the Assembly and did a lot of work in highlighting the double and triple jobbing of some of her colleagues. She will be sorely missed.

However, there are now more women in this Assembly that in the last, which had 15. Twelve actually got re-elected and there are eight new faces to join them. That raises the representation of women to 18.5 percent still a long way to go to gender equality. Northern Ireland may be moving out of a warlike status of politics but the combatants are still largely male.

Margaret Ritchie had a appalling performance in the final leaders debate. She really was the sniping old wife at the garden fence with he snide one liners. It wasn’t becoming and may have affected some of the SDLP’s slide. She is better than that and hopefully some of the new in take will show what women can do. Of the women returning both Anna Lo (Alliance) South Belfast, Michelle Gildernew (Sinn Féin) Fermanagh and South Tyrone and Michelle McIlveen (DUP) Strangford all managed to join Ritchie in topping their polls and getting in on the first count. Sinn Féin’s Jennifer McCann (West Belfast) and Martina Anderson (Foyle) along with the DUP’s Arlene Foster (Fermanagh and South Tyrone) were other women returned by reaching their quota on the first round.

They include Brenda Hale the war widow who is now DUP MLA for Lagan Valley who has already said she will fight for war widows’ rights, the DUP’s Paula Bradley who is just completing her term as Mayor of Newtownabbey but now now MLA for East Antrim, the UUP’s women’s officer Sandra Overend was also elected in Mid Ulster and Judith Cochrane of the Alliance Party continuing the party’s success in East Belfast where she joined Chris Lyttle who had replaced Naomi Long as MLA when she was elected to Westminster.

 The other debutantes in the Assembly are DUP’s Pam Lewis (South Antrim), UUP’s Joanne Dobson (Upper Bann), Sinn Féin’s Michaela Boyle (West Tyrone) and Karen McKevitt for the SDLP in (South Down).

Somebody’s put a little tribute together for Dawn, I like it especially as it has a shot of Dawn out with us for the Yes! campaign last Sunday in it.

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