Northern Ireland

Baroness May Blood remembered as 'fearless and tireless campaigner' following her death

Baroness May Blood passed away yesterday, aged 84
Baroness May Blood passed away yesterday, aged 84 Baroness May Blood passed away yesterday, aged 84

BARONESS May Blood was last night remembered as a "fearless and tireless campaigner" following her death, aged 84.

Tributes have been paid to the former Labour peer and trade unionist, who passed away yesterday following a battle with illness.

Originally from the Shankill area of west Belfast, she was the president of the Labour Party in Northern Ireland and played a key role in the formation of the Women's Coalition.

Beginning work aged 14 in the Blackstaff Linen Mill, she went on to run a training project for long-term unemployed men in the Shankill area following the mill's closure and was involved with the Greater Shankill Partnership.

A tireless campaigner, she was involved in community work throughout her life and during the 1970s actively supported the Equal Pay Act and Sex Discrimination (Northern Ireland) Order.

She was awarded an MBE in 1995 for her work in labour relations and became the first woman in the north to be given a life peerage in 1999, making her Baroness Blood of Blackwatertown. She represented the Labour Party until she stepped down from the House of Lords in 2018.

She was involved with the Integrated Education Fund (IEF) and through her work with the NI Women's Coalition, played a role in the peace talks which led to the Good Friday Agreement.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donadlson said Baroness Blood was "a fearless and tireless campaigner to make Northern Ireland a better and more peaceful place".

"She was someone steeped in the community and focused entirely on making their lives better," he said.

"May leaves a lasting legacy, not just amongst the many people her work directly helped, but right across Northern Ireland."

Former First Minister Dame Arlene Foster said she "was a force of nature always using her voice in a positive straight talking way whether in the House of Lords or on the Shankill Road",

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood described her as a "tireless community activist and advocate for workers to her core, her valuable work towards building peace here will always be celebrated and remembered", while UUP leader Doug Beattie said she was a "genuine servant of the people, working for the people, with peace, prosperity and fairness at the heart of her politics".

Monica McWilliams, who co-founded the NI Women's Coalition, said Baroness Blood had been "part of my life for so many decades".

"First as a trade unionist, as an activist, as a member of the Women's Coalition, as a fighter for integrated education," she told BBC Talkback.

"A children's rights defender in terms of the work she did all the work she did for her community in the Shankill. Her political will will be missed greatly."

The IEF said it was "heartbroken" by the death of a "great friend and champion".

"May yearned to see Northern Ireland at peace with itself," it said.

Irish-American businessman Dr Frank Costello said "we have lost a truly unique human being".

"By her very nature she was healer who never forgot her origins. While her journey from the factory floor to the House of Lords was special in itself her life was also one of trying to uplift people in all communities. I was happy to have helped May connect with Boston and Pittsburgh especially in her tireless work for integrated education and as well as for training support for her projects to help young fathers develop in their parenting roles," he said.