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Tribute to Baroness Blood

Baroness Blood: 26 May 1938 – 21 October 2022 | Image courtesy of UK Parliament

Baroness Ritchie

3 min read

A fiercely anti-sectarian warrior for social justice, peace and equality, Baroness Blood was kind and gregarious – but with a steely spine

Since her sad passing last Friday, wonderful tributes from many political quarters in Northern Ireland, and further afield, continue to be paid to Baroness Blood – all totally justified and emphasising her working class credentials: her compassionate nature, and her relentless fight for better work conditions for women – and also for the concerns for her neighbours in the Shankill area of Belfast.

I knew May – as she was affectionately known – for more than 26 years, from when we served as members of the fledgling Northern Ireland Partnership Board – a body established and responsible for the allocation of Peace I funds following the ceasefires of 1994. In that committee she fought tooth and nail for every penny for the people of Belfast. She was a stalwart of the trade union movement in Northern Ireland, and always defended the interests of those working in factories and, in particular, the rights, proper pay and working conditions for women in those factories. May grew up, lived, and worked in the Unionist Shankill Road area of Belfast. She was opposed to sectarian violence and murder.

May was also a politician – a member of the Women’s Coalition and was involved in the negotiations that led to the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. She was appointed to the House of Lords in 1999 and became a Labour peer. Again, in this Chamber, she continued her fight for causes close to her heart – labour social democratic values and the need for integrated education in Northern Ireland.

May firmly believed that children should be educated together and not apart. She was president of the Integrated Education Movement and Fund in Northern Ireland and sponsored events in the House of Lords for them on an annual basis. She retired from the Lords in July 2018.

She firmly believed that children should be educated together and not apart

In all her roles, May was fiercely anti-sectarian, fought for the needs of the underdog and was extremely resilient. She constantly fought for the needs of the communities in Belfast to minimise and reduce disadvantage and deprivation.

May was gregarious and funny – an excellent raconteur – always cheerful and with a steely spine. 

I recall in 2018, after I was diagnosed with breast cancer, May contacted me to offer support and prayers. I will never forget her kindness and assistance which was invaluable – a hallmark of an outstanding friend. Therefore, I was delighted on entering the House of Lords in 2019 to be allocated her desk, chair, and computer in the office on the second floor, West Front,  which we shared with her friend Baroness Gale.

May will be missed and mourned by her many friends in the House of Lords. 

My deepest sympathies to May’s family, her many friends and colleagues in the women’s and trade union movement in Northern Ireland. All of us have lost a true warrior for social justice, peace, equality, inclusion and fairness. May she rest in peace.

Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick is a Labour peer

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