On Tuesday March 7 2023, the John Smith Centre proudly hosted Claire Hanna MP as part of our Power Hour series looking at key women in public life.

Politics in Northern Ireland is rarely out of the news, and in the week before this event the Prime Minister had secured agreement with the European Union over post-Brexit trading rights for Northern Ireland. Claire gave her thoughts on the deal and what it might mean for the future of power-sharing at Stormont.

Claire was elected in December 2019 as SDLP MP for Belfast South. She serves as a member on the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee and is the SDLP’s spokesperson for Europe and International Affairs.

Claire joined Centre Director, Kezia Dugdale in conversation about her childhood and route into politics, how she managed to build a coalition of voters to elect her in 2019, and how she thinks we can encourage more women into politics.

The full 60-minute session is available to watch or listen to again here, but here are some highlights from our Centre Director, Kezia Dugdale.

1) How Northern Ireland politics works

In this clip, Claire was asked to give an explanation of politics in Northern Ireland, including at Stormont and Westminster.

2) Is the ‘Ulsterification’ of Scottish politics justified?

Kezia asks Claire how far Northern Irish politics compares to Scottish politics, and whether it’s fair to say that politics in Scotland has become polarised on nationalist and unionist lines.

3) Building a coalition of support from voters

Claire’s constituency seat is one of the most diverse in Northern Ireland. Here she describes how she worked with voters from across the political spectrum to be elected in 2019.

4) Why are more women leaving politics?

Kezia asks Claire why she thinks more women are leaving their role as an MP, what needs to change to keep them in politics?

5) How do we attract the brightest people into politics?

Kezia and Claire discuss online abuse aimed at female politicians, and what can be done to make politics and public service an attractive career option.

Everyone at the John Smith Centre would like to thank Claire Hanna MP for giving us an hour of her time with such an interesting discussion around Northern Irish politics, building a coalition of support from voters and life as a female MP.