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Shirley Williams in conversation at the University of Ulster

23 April 2012

Liberal Democrat peer, Baroness Shirley Williams is the latest guest to take part in the University of Ulster’s 'Life Stories' series of events.

Once tipped to become the UK’s first female Prime Minister, she will discuss her life and political career with Professor Paul Moore, Head of the School of Creative Arts, at a free event in the Great Hall of the University’s Magee campus on Thursday (April 26), at 8pm.

Baroness Williams has strong connections to Northern Ireland and Ulster.

She says: “I had some very dear friends in Northern Ireland who, alas, are no longer alive – Sir Charles Brett (solicitor, architectural historian, former president of the Housing Executive and chairman of the Northern Ireland Labour Party) and his wife, Joyce.

“I’ve also kept in close contact over the years with my colleague in the Lords, Baroness May Blood, with whom I’ve enjoyed many discussions on integrated education in the province.

“And of course one of my dearest friends is Baroness Julia Neuberger, a former Chancellor of the University of Ulster. Because of her, I was invited to the university on many occasions.

“I also know former Vice Chancellor Trevor Smith (Baron Smith of Clifton) very well."

The British politician and academic, started her career as a journalist with the Daily Mirror and Financial Times before becoming a Labour MP and Cabinet Minister. She was one of the ‘gang of four’ who founded the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in 1981 and from 2001-2004, served as Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords.

Baroness Williams, who received an honorary Doctor of Letters (DLitt) from the University of Ulster in 1997 for her outstanding contribution to public and academic life, has been a regular visitor to Northern Ireland on a personal and professional level ever since the late 1960s, when she served in the Home Office as a junior minister with responsibility for Northern Ireland.

She became Baroness Williams of Crosby in 1993.In the House of Lords, she was spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats on Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and served as Leader of the Liberal Democrats from 2001 until retiring from the position in 2004.

She has re-emerged into the political spotlight recently thanks to her determination to make changes to proposed NHS reforms.

Her high profile in the world of British politics has been matched by an equally illustrious career in the international academic world.

Between 1988 and 2000 she was Professor of Elective Politics in the John F Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.She has also held senior academic posts in Oxford and Cambridge.

She is the author of several books, many of which examined the issue of unemployment, particularly among young people.

Admission to the event is free and everyone is welcome but reservations are required. For further information or to reserve a seat, please phone 028 7167 5679 or email:

*Life Stories is a series of interviews with prominent University of Ulster graduates from the world of arts and culture.

These one-to-one discussions offer audiences a rare opportunity to hear the personal account of the life and achievements of distinguished artists.

The in-depth interviews, punctuated with examples of their work, explore each guest’s early years, the key landmarks in the development of their career and the highs and lows of their working life, as well as their views, outlook and plans for the future.

*Professor Paul Moore is head of the University of Ulster’s School of Creative Arts at the Magee campus. He has published widely in a range of journals and his own practice is in the area of sound art.

He has produced a number of commissioned gallery exhibitions in Coventry, Belfast, Lough Neagh, Derry and most recently, the National Gallery in Namibia.

In his spare time, he is a freelance broadcaster with BBC Radio Ulster and has written and presented a range of documentaries for BBC national radio.