Mo Mowlam

Mo Mowlam

Mo Mowlam was a woman who excelled in the male dominated political world of Great Britain in the 80s and 90s. She achieved much during her life but she will no doubt be remembered for the role she played in the Northern Ireland Peace Process which ended decades of violence between the two sides of the divided nation.

After studying anthropology and sociology in Trevelyan College in County Durham, it was while here that she became a member of the Labour Party having always had an interest in politics. Following the completion of her degree she went on to earn her Ph.D. in political science at the University of Iowa. This allowed her to begin her college lecturing career in politics at the University of Wisconsin and the Florida State University. In 1979 she moved to Newcastle where she began lecturing in politics.

While she was lecturing she remained a member of the Labour Party and in 1987 she was elected MP for the Redcar area of North Yorkshire, a post she would hold for 14 years. She would go on to hold a number of influential posts over the years including becoming a member of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, the Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland as well as helping Tony Blair arrange his leadership bid for the Labour Party in 1994. Her most influential post was earned following the Labour Party’s victory in the 1997 general election when she was named Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the first woman to be assigned this position.

She was assigned this post at one of the most pivotal moments of the country’s history. Following decades of violence in Northern Ireland between Unionists and Republicans, peace talks had begun in 1994 and despite efforts of political leaders in Britain, the Republic of Ireland and the United States (President Bill Clinton assisted in finding a resolution). It was Mo who invited members of the Sinn Fein political party to join the talks in 1997 following the ceasefire by the IRA. In 1998 the talks had stalled and Mo did what no other political figure had done before, she went to the Maze prison in Belfast to speak to Irish paramilitaries as the peace process needed their support. After her visit their political representatives rejoined the talks and on the 10th of April 1998 the Good Friday Agreement was agreed upon by all political parties in Northern Ireland.

A cabinet reshuffle saw Mo Mowlam moved to the post of Cabinet Office Minister, seen by some as a demotion. In 2000 she announced that she would be retiring from her parliamentary post and in 2001 she vacated her MP seat in the general election. Mo Mowlam died on the 19th of August 2005 from head injuries caused by a fall at her home. The following quote from President Bill Clinton following her death shows how important she was to the Peace Process of Northern Ireland “Her persistence, toughness and good humour were legendary. All of us who worked to support peace in Northern Ireland owe her our gratitude‚Äù.

-Michelle O’Brien
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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