Women parliamentarians of Northern Ireland

Welcome from the Assembly Commission


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A photograph of the Members of the first Parliament of Northern Ireland, with Dehra Parker and Julia McMordie sitting in the front row (image: Northern Ireland Assembly Commission.

Welcome to the Women Parliamentarians of Northern Ireland online exhibition. This online exhibition complements the physical exhibition which took place in the Great Hall of Parliament Buildings, home of the Northern Ireland Assembly, between 4-18 March 2022. The exhibition was launched by The Speaker Alex Maskey on Friday 4 March 2022.

View pictures from the launch event.

The Assembly Commission proposed this important initiative to highlight the role of the women who have been elected since the passing of the Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act in 1918. This legislation gave women the right to stand for election to the first Parliament of Northern Ireland, one hundred years ago.

While it has not been possible to feature the achievements of all of these women, we have listed the name of every woman elected to the parliamentary institutions of Northern Ireland since 1921. We have also featured those women who have been the first to be appointed to different leadership roles. There are many more achievements that we were unable to include in the Great Hall exhibition but more will be made available in this online exhibition.

Northern Ireland historically has had the lowest proportion of female representation in the UK devolved administrations. However, following the restoration of devolution in 2020, female elected representatives made up 33% of the 90 seats of the Northern Ireland Assembly. Arlene Foster (DUP) and Michelle O’Neill (Sinn Féin) were also appointed to the most senior positions in the Executive, of First Minister and deputy First Minister respectively.

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29 female MLAs of the Northern Ireland Assembly, photographed in June 2021 (image: Northern Ireland Assembly Commission).

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Members of the Northern Ireland Women's Coalition at a press conference at Castle Buildings following the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, 10 April 1998
(image by Derek Speirs).

Beyond this exhibition, we plan to continue to highlight the achievements of those women elected to the parliamentary institutions which have taken place in Parliament Buildings. 

However, we are aware that not many sources exist about the role of women. We are therefore asking you to help us by sharing photographs and testimonies about their achievements.

If you would like to help us tell the story of the women elected, please email us on wponi@niassembly.gov.uk.

Read our privacy notice to find out how we will handle your personal information

This online exhibition includes:

A list of all elected female representatives

First parliament

First Senators

First female ministers

First female leaders

First female party leaders

Diverse voices

Northern Ireland Women's Coalition

First female Speakers

Social and legislative context

Note that by clicking on each picture in this exhibition you can view an enlarged version.


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