Former South Down SDLP MP Margaret Ritchie has been appointed to the House of Lords.
Commenting on her appointment to the House of Lords, Margaret Ritchie said today: “I am delighted to have been appointed to the House. I want to thank those individuals who have recommended me for appointment.”
In a surprise move, she has also resigned from the SDLP, a party which she has help office in as leader and whose values she still cherishes.
Margaret Ritchie received the peerage through the former PM Theresa May’s resignation honours list. The SDLP have a policy of avoiding peerages in the House of Lords and she decided to accept the offer to exert some active influence at Westminster.
She said: “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 the people of the North (regionally and locally) regarding the ongoing impact of Brexit on our society and community across a range of sectors in Northern Ireland in the House of Lords.
“Such policy sectors include the economy and job creation, trade tariffs, agri food issues and Health matters. There is a clear priority to press the government of the need for Northern Ireland to remain within the European Union, and of course to press for the retention of the backstop.
“Other issues which 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 in Northern Ireland.
“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 their 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 in Northern Ireland”.
Ms Ritchie has been an inveterate political activist through her life and has held a number of key offices as an SDLP member. Margaret was a Councillor and Council Chairperson in 193-94 in the legacy Down District Council, and was a parliamentary aide to the late Eddie McGrady MP from 1987-2003.
In 2010, Margaret became Minister for Social Development in the Northern Ireland Assembly and later the leader of the SDLP from 2010 to 2011.
The SDLP had a difficult year when in 2017 during the Westminster election they lost seats in South Down, Foyle and Belfast South when the vote in Northern Ireland became more polarised towards the DUP and Sinn Fein with the SDLP seeing a dip in their vote.
Margaret has been a constant campaigner for causes and following her illness with breast cancer, she has fought back to good health and is ready for re-engaging in politics in the House of Lords.
She said: “I’m sure I won’t be into the Lords until the middle of October. With parliament being prorogued by Boris Johnston’s government, I would not expect it to re-convene until around the 17th October when I will have to be introduced to the Lords and at some stage make a maiden speech. I am looking forward to attending the Lords and hope to continue my political work at that level.”