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Peacemakers: Wave Goodbye to Dinosaurs on BBC One NI

Date Posted: September 6, 2017

The extraordinary story of political party, the Northern Ireland Woman’s Coalition (NIWC), is told in Peacemakers: Wave Goodbye to Dinosaurs, the first of three programmes highlighting some of the people who worked to facilitate political change in Northern Ireland and bring an end to the Troubles. The series, which begins on Monday 11th September at 10.40pm on BBC One Northern Ireland, received funding from Northern Ireland Screen, with support from Invest NI.

NIWC was founded in response to an unsuccessful lobbying campaign by women’s organisations, to require parties to submit gender-balanced candidate lists in the Northern Ireland Forum elections.

Despite women creating and heading up hundreds of organisations committed to ending violence, addressing economic depression and social unrest, in 1996 women were virtually absent from Northern Ireland political life and many felt ‘homeless’ when it came to aligning with any particular political party. Determined to help bring an end to the Troubles and angered at female underrepresentation, a letter was sent to numerous women’s groups and individuals across Northern Ireland, inviting them to attend a meeting on April 17, 1996, to discuss the impending Forum elections.

The response was overwhelming and the realisation that there would be no women at the top table in the talks unless women themselves did something about it, resulted in the formation of the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition. Membership comprised of women from the nationalist and unionist communities and from both republican and loyalist traditions. In May 1996, within six weeks of the party’s formation, NIWC fielded 70 candidates in the Forum elections, under the campaign slogan, Wave Goodbye Dinosaurs. Party leaders Monica McWilliams (a university lecturer from the Catholic community) and Pearl Sagar (a social worker from the Protestant community) each won a seat at the historic peace talks, which culminated in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. Featuring interviews with NIWC leaders and members and archive footage, Peacemakers: Wave Goodbye to Dinosaurs recalls the male-dominated political atmosphere of the mid-1990s, the determination of NIWC to champion women’s rights and interests, and the tense journey to peace.

The impact the Women’s Coalition has had on the Northern Ireland political landscape, past and present, is discussed and analysed by relevant figures including former US Senator George Mitchell and Irish government representative at the talks, Liz O’Donnell.

“BBC Northern Ireland’s Peacemakers trilogy of programmes takes a look at some of the remarkable people – some not well known – who adopted very different approaches to the problems facing Northern Ireland during the Troubles,” said Susan Lovell, BBC Northern Ireland Head of Television Commissioning.

“These programmes are a welcome and illuminating addition to the wide range of stories highlighted by BBC Northern Ireland about the Troubles and bring new perspectives about old problems to our audiences in Northern Ireland.

“As time passes, we are able to gain insight and understanding about events in ways that were impossible at the time.”

She added: “Peacemakers: Wave Goodbye to Dinosaurs, is the remarkable story of how, within six weeks of its formation, a cross-community, political party competed in an election and secured two seats at the top table of the Northern Ireland peace talks.”

Peacemakers: Wave Goodbye to Dinosaurs was produced by Fine Point Films with funding from Northern Ireland Screen, supported by Invest NI.

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