Mo Mowlam: 'Women have to shout a bit louder to get heard'

The key role of women in the peace process is often overlooked.
James Wilson
James Wilson

11.52 8 Apr 2023

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Mo Mowlam: 'Women have to shou...

Mo Mowlam: 'Women have to shout a bit louder to get heard'

James Wilson
James Wilson

11.52 8 Apr 2023

Share this article

“Women have to shout a bit louder to get heard,” the stepdaughter of Mo Mowlam has said. 

Ms Mowlam served as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland during the negotiations for the Good Friday Agreement and was described by Tony Blair as having “transformed” the province after her death in 2005. 

Despite this, he omitted to mention her name in a speech on the 20th anniversary of the agreement and Henrietta Norton is determined her role in the peace process will be remembered this time around. 


“I’ve heard her name mentioned at a number of things,” Ms Norton told The Anton Savage Show. 

“I was in the States recently and she was spoken a lot about at a ‘Women at the Helm’ event in Georgetown. 

“I went to a really beautiful event at the Abbey [Theatre] last weekend - which I was invited to represent Mo at. 

“She got many, many mentions… I know that over the next 10 days, there are a number of events taking place at which she is being honoured and talked about.” 

Henrietta met the woman who would become her stepmum when she was eight-years-old. At that point, Mo and her dad were only friends and the family had gone to visit her in the Redcar constituency in the north of England. 

“She was incredibly welcoming and warm and instantly we felt very at home and comfortable with her,” she recalled. 

They “instantly clicked” and Mo took them to the local beach where they built sandcastles and played in the sand. 

“From that moment on, basically, Mo was my stepmum.” 


In 1997, New Labour won a famous victory and Ms Mowlam was appointed Secretary of State for Northern Ireland at a time when there was a real prospect of peace. 

“I remember flying out to Belfast with her and arriving at Hillsborough Castle and the kind of madness of that,” Ms Norton. 

“I remember her turning to me and saying, ‘Don’t get used to this, this isn’t normal. We’re going to be here for a while and it’s going to be tough but we’re going to have lots of fun as well.’” 

From that point onwards, the family spent most weekends and the school holidays at Hillsborough while Ms Mowlam grappled with the complexities of the peace process. 

“Mo enjoyed a challenge,” Ms Norton said. 

“She wanted to do things that were really going to make a difference and she wanted to do things that made a difference for the community and on the ground and with real people.” 

Then Prime Minister Tony Blair and Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam talking in Castle Buildings, Stormont.

She was “in love with job” and as a child Ms Norton said she found people’s admiration for her stepmother “overwhelming”. 

No matter whether it was in Northern Ireland or Redcar, it was hard for the Secretary of State to walk down the street without being stopped by a member of the public keen to have a friendly chat with her. 

As if the job wasn’t hard enough, Ms Mowlam was also battling a brain tumour - a disease that would claim her life in the end. 

After she began chemotherapy, she took to wearing a wig which she would sometimes take off and place on the table during meetings. 

“Then she would launch into conversation with whoever was in the room,” Gerry Adams once said. “I liked her style.”

Ms Norton believes her illness spurred her on to “put everything into her job - maybe that’s because she knew she potentially didn’t have as long as other people?”

She is making a documentary called Mo and Me about her relationship with her stepmother. 

“I miss talking to her, I miss hugging her, she was so physical as well as emotionally present,” she said. 

“We just had a really good time. 

“I miss the friends and the parties and the playing games and the being in West Cork with her and the going on holidays.”

Main image: Mo Mowlam. Picture by: 

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Feminism Good Friday Agreement History Mo Mowlam Northern Ireland Parenting Peace Process The Troubles Tony Blair Women

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