A momentous day for free period product campaigners in north

I hope that today will be a momentous one for free period products campaigners across the north.

After years of campaigning to make these essential healthcare products free for everyone who needs them, my Period Products Bill will come before the Assembly for the final time this afternoon.

I expect every party to join me in ensuring it passes and in turn protect people from the scourge of period poverty. This legislation will make period products free in public buildings and rest rooms – just like toilet paper.

I started this journey because I’m a father and grandfather to three grown up women and three young girls and I wanted to make the north a kinder place for them.

While working on this legislation my eyes have been well and truly opened to the huge impact period poverty has on our communities.   

I have met with campaigners who spelled out to me the horrendous experiences that women dealing with period poverty have gone through.

Women and girls who cannot afford these vital products are often forced to miss work, school and important social events in their lives.

Those who cannot afford to buy products are forced to use unsuitable alternatives, putting their health at significant risk.

Period poverty also has a huge impact on someone’s mental health. These are products that simply cannot be done without and it’s long past time that we did something about it.

These products are expensive and with the current price rises in everything from food to fuel the extra cost for period products is putting serious pressure on families.

Many have very little leftover after paying their bills and it’s unthinkable that some people could be facing the choice between buying these vital healthcare products for themselves or their daughter or putting food on the table.   

This is a good day for our assembly and a proud day for me personally. Some may have considered me an unlikely politician to bring forward this legislation but I have been motivated and inspired by my own family and by the amazing activists who have been campaigning for this change in the law.

Making period products available in schools, colleges and public buildings shows what we can achieve when our assembly puts people first and works together to improve their lives.

I’d like to thank all the campaigners who have worked with me on this legislation, without them we would not have gotten it over the line.

This bill will make a significant difference to the lives of those who experience period poverty. Today is for them and this is their victory.   


SDLP, Lagan Valley

Truth recovery proposal

I thank Pádraig Yeates for his reply (March 8)to my letter (February 28). Pádraig reports that his truth recovery proposal is not reliant on ‘British goodwill’, but in a sentence following admits, sensibly, that it requires British legislation. Does that not require goodwill? More important than a commitment (usually not worth the paper to which it is committed) is the shape of legislation.

It matters less if Dublin is party to the proposal. Britain is the sovereign power with most to hide in relation to running a loyalist proxy war and the involvement of its official and unofficial agents. Refusal to aid Judge Barron’s

inquiry into the Dublin Monaghan bombings, to reveal its role in the killing of Pat Finucane and other acts of violence in the Murder Triangle, or (to get straight to the point) previous commitments on truth recovery, does not bode well for a new scheme. I predict that, no matter what verbal assurances Pádraig may get, no British government will tell the truth about its role in fomenting and driving the conflict.

That will leave, as I originally stated, non-state actors being pressured to implicate each other in a round of recrimination, smear and innuendo in a conditional process. The chair would be ‘mutually agreed’, who by? Or two judges with what track record would preside?

A declaration by Britain that it will cease hindering truth recovery when it comes to its own actions is necessary. If it did, though, that might make Pádraig’s proposal redundant. If it does not, what is the utility of it? The truth recovery website to which Pádraig referred me contains a PDF booklet. On page 68 of 104, the Pat Finucane Centre and Justice for the Forgotten note a reference to victims as merely another “interest group”. They also note a claim that Pádraig’s group consulted, “victims, combatants from all sides and people in political and academic life”. They remark: “This statement is rather misleading because, while you did consult with us, and

our views reflect the views of the bereaved families, you did not accept our viewpoint”.

This Irish News letter exchange is, so far, missing from the website of Pádraig’s group. Why not include it, so that these issues may be teased out and tested in

the open?


Irish National Congress,

Dublin 2

Good news story

With nothing but bad news on our TV screens it was nice to see a good news story on March 16. I am referring to the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

The courageous woman has spent nearly five years in an Iran jail and then being put under house arrest in her parent’s home in the capital Tehran. Her husband Richard has done everything to secure her release during this period, even going on hunger strike. The same could not be said about the foreign office who did little or nothing for her and also Boris Johnson making a blunder during a speech some years ago. I am slightly suspicious they are doing some deal now regarding oil supplies and this release could be a factor in this. It was heartbreaking to see this innocent lady incarcerated for so long and not being able to see her beautiful daughter Gabrielle and dedicated husband.


Cullyhanna, Co Armagh

Maybe next time

Those who scorn Bono’s Poem for Ukraine and question its purpose are missing the point. Its self-serving author – with an eye for a bit of self-promotion, sent it to Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House of Representatives – is well aware that any paddywhackery blather will go down well at an Irish bash in Washington on St Patrick’s Day. Sure enough Bono’s magnum opus was read by a giggling Nancy to a party of diners who didn’t stop eating to listen to his heart breaking ditty, which to the more intellectually inclined is right up there with the work of that titan of the poetic word, the celebrated Scots poet William McGonagall. Bono’s Poem for Ukraine must now be rated alongside McGonagall’s greatest poem, The Rattling Boy from Dublin.

McGonagall’s influence on Bono is unmistakeable. Where else would the emotional content of lines like “Ireland’s sorrow and pain/is now the Ukraine”, and St Patrick’s name now Zelensky have come from? We can only hope that Bono’s next poetic effort, however heartfelt, to the people of Ukraine will be influenced by Yeats or Heaney.


Derry City