Former Women's Coalition members back Jane Morrice European election campaign
Several former members of the Women's Coalition have come together to back one of its best-known faces in the European elections.
Jane Morrice, a one-time deputy speaker of the assembly, is hoping to secure one of the region's three seats in the expected poll later this month.
Baroness May Blood, another high-profile member of the cross-community political party that emerged during the peace process and organised for a decade, endorsed Ms Morrice's candidature at a launch event in Belfast, while others associated with the Women's Coalition joined the audience in the MAC arts centre.
While the DUP and Sinn Féin look certain to retain their European seats, there could be a fierce battle for the third berth in Brussels, which is held by the Ulster Unionist Party.
Ms Morrice, a former journalist from Bangor, Co Down, and ex-head of the European Commission Office in Northern Ireland, is one of a number of pro-Remain candidates vying for the seat.
She has promised a campaign without election posters – instead opting to spread her message via social media – and has encouraged supporters to hand out balloons and flowers at polling stations rather than leaflets.
"I am operating on a shoestring and I'm flying by the seat of my pants and I am now ready to get this show on the road," she told the audience at the launch event.
Ms Morrice said her opposition to Brexit was her primary reason for running.
"It's brought the fire back to my belly," she said.
"I profoundly believe that Brexit poses the most serious threat to political, economic and social stability in Northern Ireland and I feel it's my duty to stand against it.
"Brexit doesn't just shut the door on the best trade deal we could have with Europe, it slams the door in the face of opportunity for our younger people to work, to study, to live and learn from a European civilisation that is part of our very being, our essence.
"Europe isn't just about money and markets – that's all everyone seems to talk about – it's about culture, it's about art, it's about entertainment and it's about fun."
Baroness Blood said the results of the local elections, where middle-ground parties like Alliance experienced a surge in support, showed that politics was changing in Northern Ireland.
"People are fed up, people are really fed up with the old rhetoric," she said.
The community worker from the Shankill Road in Belfast added: "I am here because of Europe, I always believed we should have stayed in Europe, I think it was the biggest mistake when people voted to leave – in Northern Ireland of course we didn't.
"On the Shankill we have benefited greatly from Europe.
"The reason I would support Jane is because I don't know anybody who knows more about Europe than Jane Morrice. She lives and breathes it."