Bill passed to make period products free in schools

Pat Catney emerges from the chamber jubilant after his Period Poverty Bill passes.Pat Catney emerges from the chamber jubilant after his Period Poverty Bill passes.
Pat Catney emerges from the chamber jubilant after his Period Poverty Bill passes.
Legislation which will make period products freely available to all in schools, colleges and public buildings has been passed by the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The Private Member’s Bill brought by SDLP MLA Pat Catney will create a legal right of free access to items such as tampons and sanitary pads.

Previously, Northern Ireland had been the only part of the UK not to have a permanent scheme in place to tackle period poverty.

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As the Bill passed its final stage at Stormont, communities minister Deirdre Hargey said period products should be available just like toilet roll.

She told MLAs: “It is about dignity, it is about normalising it, creating visibility that this isn’t some dirty thing that you keep behind closed doors.

“This happens to over 50% of our population who menstruate, who have periods.

“The more that we can normalise it the better.

“I want to thank Pat for listening to your daughters, for listening to the campaigners and bringing forward this much-needed legislation which will now become enacted in law.

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An emotional Pat Catney said the passing of the Bill made him proud to be part of the Assembly.

He said: “When we work here we can deliver.

“We should have got rid of the stigma years ago that deals with period poverty.

“I am a grandfather of three girls; this changes it for them.

“It must be terrible to wake up in the morning and go out to school and find that you do not have access to the products that you need for a natural bodily function, so I hope this changes that for every little girl.”

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The Bill was passed on an oral vote and will now proceed to receive Royal Assent.

A number of campaigners joined with Mr Catney and Ms Hargey to celebrate the passing of the legislation on the front steps of Stormont.

Mr Catney said: “While I might have been thought an unlikely advocate, I have been so inspired by the passion of activists and the experience of people who have come forward to us with their story.”

Scotland became the first country in the world to make period products free for all in 2020.

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In England and Wales a number of schemes are operated by local authorities and NHS England.

In Northern Ireland pilot programmes had previously been put in place by the Departments of Education and Economy.