Northern Ireland

May Blood dies at age 84

Baroness May Blood
Baroness May Blood

May Blood, the former Labour peer and trade unionist, has died at the age of 84.

Paying tribute to her, the Integrated Education Fund said it was "heartbroken" by her death.

Baroness Blood had been a champion of integrated education in Northern Ireland and during a campaigning career had also served as president of the Labour Party in Northern Ireland (LPNI) and had played an integral part in establishing the Northern Ireland Women's Coalition in the 1990s.

She was from Belfast and on being given a life peerage in 1999 became Baroness Blood of Blackwatertown.

Read more: 

  • Women airbrushed out of history of civil rights says ex-Labour peer May Blood
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Tributes are being paid to the baroness. 

ICTU General Secretary Owen Reidy recalled her years as a trade union activist, saying that her life’s mission was “the advancement of working people”, and challenging sectarianism.

“May Blood learned her politics and her vocation in the vanished world of the mills of Belfast, a harsh environment of long hours and lives shortened by unsafe working conditions.

“From her teenage years, she was active in the Transport & General Workers Union, challenging mill bosses on behalf of a largely female workforce for decency at work and winning more money, shorter hours and better lives.

“She took risks for her neighbours, even being burned out of her home at the start of The Troubles, and later took risks for peace in supporting Labour causes, better housing, integrated education, women’s rights and most of all the trade union movement.

“May Blood is not the last of her type – Northern Ireland contains multitudes of people from all backgrounds who stand up and speak out for the same causes and reflect the same values forcefully expressed by our Baroness.”

President of Ireland Michael D Higgins said Baroness Blood "was a truly progressive force".

“The work she has done on the integrated education campaign, as well as her proud record of trade union activism and the bravest presentation of gender rights, have benefitted all those committed to building a generation who will enjoy peace and a shared life together.

"Baroness Blood was a truly progressive force. What she brought in particular was the emphasis on endurance in campaigns, knowing that change wouldn’t be instant but had to be kept moving.

"I was personally so struck by all of this when she had a long visit with me in Áras an Uachtaráin in June 2021 when we discussed all of these issues, and indeed discussed the things we would do together in the future."

Sinn Féin deputy leader Michelle O'Neill said May Blood was a "fearless and committed community and trade union activist".

“She never gave up on campaigning for equality and to secure fair pay and conditions for people in the workplace.

“She was also a seasoned campaigner who worked hard over decades to bring communities together while championing integrated education, early years provision and supporting local business on the Greater Shankill.

“We must all remember and acknowledge May’s important and valuable contribution to building lasting peace on our island through her work in the Women’s Coalition and in the talks leading up to the Good Friday Agreement."

Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland the Most Revd John McDowell said her death "leaves Northern Ireland and particularly her home city of Belfast a poorer place". 

He described her as having been "at the heart of progressive movements for community development and reform in Belfast from a very early age".

"Her concern sprang from seeing and experiencing the very poor living conditions in post-war Belfast and led to an early involvement in the Trade Union Movement and into wider social and political activism; all deeply informed by the influence of the teachings and person of Jesus Christ. And she could be found where women so often have been in the unfinished work of peace in Ireland – front and centre, where more timid spirits were wary to tread, outstandingly exemplified in her work with the Women’s Coalition."

Ulster Unionist Party Leader Doug Beattie said May Blood was "a genuine servant of the people and someone who placed peace, prosperity and fairness at the heart of her politics".