Council tributes on suffrage milestone

Councillor Cheryl Johnston.
Councillor Cheryl Johnston.

The risks campaigners took to secure the vote have been recalled as Mid and East Antrim celebrates the centenary of Representation of the People Act.

The Act gave some women the vote for the first time and paved the way for the introduction of universal suffrage 10 years later. Elected Members agreed to proceed with a series of events throughout 2018.

During the monthly meeting of the local government authority, the Deputy Mayor, Councillor Cheryl Johnston, took the chair and paid tribute to all of those involved in the fight for greater equality for all.

Councillor Johnston said afterwards: “As a young woman, it would have been unheard of for me to occupy the position of Deputy Mayor, representing and campaigning on behalf of all our citizens. One hundred years on from the Representation of the People Act, I thank those brave visionaries who overcame incredible odds and resistance for the greater good of all.”

The Act reformed the electoral system and widened suffrage by granting the vote to women over the age of 30 who owned property, and all men over the age of 21. Plans include regional celebrations aimed at educating young people on the Act’s significance and building a legacy for the future by encouraging young women into political and public life. Among council events is a special presentation and workshops to mark International Women’s Day.

Anne Donaghy, chief executive MEA Council, said: “So many women risked their homes, families and freedom to fight for democracy and equality. They faced down discrimination, inequality and harassment, ultimately achieving universal suffrage.”