Ritchie gets seat in House of Lords

Ritchie gets seat in House of Lords

11 September 2019

FORMER South Down MP Margaret Ritchie has been appointed to the House of Lords.

Miss Ritchie — who was diagnosed with breast cancer in February last year and survived the disease — is delighted with the appointment made by former Prime Minister Theresa May.

The former SDLP leader and Stormont Social Development Minister, who has resigned from the party, said she is “delighted” to make history by becoming the first nationalist peer in the House of Lords since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.

Miss Ritchie, who succeeded the late Eddie McGrady as South Down MP in 2010 and held the seat until 2017, will become the first nationalist to sit in the Lords since SDLP party founder Gerry Fitt, who became Baron Fitt of Bell’s Hill in 1983.

“I am delighted with the honour and would like to thank everyone who recommended me for the peerage,” she said after being named in Mrs May’s resignation honours list.

“This will give me the opportunity to fight for Northern Ireland in Westminster,” she said. “At Westminster we have the DUP, who do not speak for the majority of people in Northern Ireland, and Sinn Fein do not take their seats.”

Miss Ritchie said given the current unprecedented political time, she feels she needs to be in the House of Lords ‘to give a voice to people in Northern Ireland’.

She continued: “In the absence of the lack of a local functioning government at Stormont and the dearth of adequate representation in Parliament for the population in Northern Ireland, this will give me an opportunity to speak up for people regionally and locally regarding the ongoing impact of Brexit on our society and community across a range of sectors in the House of Lords,” she said.

“Such policy sectors include the economy and job creation, trade tariffs, agri-food issues and health matters. “

Miss Ritchie said there is also a “clear priority” to press the government of the need for Northern Ireland to remain within the European Union and press for the retention of the backstop.

Other issues which she said need addressed include the need to introduce a lower VAT on tourism products, compensation for the victims of Contaminated Bloods, child and family poverty, taxation, welfare reform/benefit issues and other social and economic priorities as they impact on the wider population.

She declared: “I look forward to taking my seat at an early date representing the views of local people in the House of Lords as one party from Northern Ireland refuses to take its seats in the Commons and another party simply represents the ‘leave side’ on the Brexit issue in the Commons and Lords which is not reflective of the majority viewpoint of people in the North.”

While no title has yet been chosen by Ms Ritchie, she said given the fact that she was born in Downpatrick and grew up in the area she would like to reflect that.

The former South Down MP is expecting to be introduced to the House of Lords in October.