Monica McWilliams is an activist, advocate and academic. She served on the management committee of the first Women’s Centre in Belfast and established the Northern Ireland Poverty Lobby. She started the first Women’s Studies courses in Ireland and produced a study of the experience of abused women that influenced the development of policy on domestic violence.
A co-founder of the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition, McWilliams took part in the peace talks that culminated in the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. She served as a Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly for South Belfast between 1998 and 2003. In 2005 she was appointed Chief Commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, moving to the Transitional Justice Institute at the University of Ulster in 2011. She has served on the Prisons Reform Oversight Group for the Department of Justice in the Northern Ireland Executive, Fresh Start Panel on the Disbandment of Paramilitary Groups in Northern Ireland, and the Independent Reporting Commission monitoring progress on tackling paramilitary activity.
Now Emeritus Professor of the Transnational Justice Institute, Monica also chairs the Governing Board of the international NGO Interpeace and has worked with and for women in conflict societies including in South America and the Middle East. She is author of a number of journal articles, essays and reports on family and sexual matters; domestic violence; and human rights in Northern Ireland.