“It is believed overall goals include producing better informed elected Stormont representatives…”

The NIO vetoed the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission’s further access to US-based charity Atlantic Philanthropies’ largesse – which may have contributed to the Chief Commissioner’s announced early departure.

Meanwhile, according to a Belfast Telegraph report, the NI Assembly is in advanced talks with Atlantic Philanthropies to fund a “political leadership” skills programme for NI Assembly members. From the Belfast Telegraph report

According to Stormont sources, in the region of £1m could be provided for the MLA programme, which would run over a number of years. There would be no cost to the public purse.

It is believed overall goals include producing better informed elected Stormont representatives, with training to assist them in their work of overseeing legislation and the work of Government departments.

Sources say it is hoped to develop future ministers and Assembly committee chairs.

It is thought the scheme could cover such areas as social and economic policy issues, Government accounts, media relations and public speaking.

The programme can also be expected to involve visits to parliaments outside Northern Ireland.

An Assembly spokesperson said: “The Assembly is in ongoing discussions with Atlantic Philanthropies.”

Published minutes from the cross-party Assembly Commission state that its members have agreed “in principle” with the plan.

Alternatively, the political parties could select better informed candidates…

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  • There may have been other reasons why he departed but none, let me make this clear, related in ANY way, to Monica. No way.

  • Pete Baker


    I think you’re commenting on something other than the focus of the original post.

    Try to play the actual ball.

  • pippakin

    Is it too much to ask that the elected representatives have gained the necessary qualifications or experience to be able to do their jobs without needing a course in ‘political leadership’ or any other skills. The old chestnut about how many MLAs does it take to change a light bulb springs to mind.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Look guys quit your yapping, one day yous complain MLAs arent up to the job, then next your complaining about them getting a bit extra training. There is no BTEC courses in being an MLA that I know off, and if sensible would do no harm, but…
    I would be very very wary of getting Chuck Feeny & Co to do it, there is always a political agenda in everything he does, and I’m not sure how neutral any training he funded would really be.

  • Pete Baker


    Make up your mind…

  • Alias

    Other countries would react with outrage to the suggestion that their political class need to board the short bus to special school. It insults the elected and the electors.

    While it is humiliating, folks in NI ignore it because they know it is true. Worse, of course, is that they’ll re-elect the same muppets even though they know they are not fit for purpose and that the electors will duly suffer the consequences of electing the incompetent to public office.

    It’s really the future voters that need to be educated at secondary school level since remedial education won’t convert dullards and dolts into scholars.

    Political parties will continue to be run as private clubs for members until the voters refuse to vote for muppets that they promote. It’ll take a few decades of educated electorates to correct that flaw, and it won’t be corrected at all unless a new party is formed that has a policy of excellence in service of the national interest or until some brilliant individuals come through as independent candidates and lead by example.

  • Interesting points, DR. Always look a gift horse in the mouth 🙂

    Here are the Assembly Commission minutes – uncorrected.

  • “the political parties could select better informed candidates”

    Pete, you’re just going to have to form such a party 😉

    As an easy outing, can I suggest you run against David Vance in East Belfast.

  • OOPS Corrected URL – I hope!!

  • Framer

    Money from America indeed.

    If Chuck Feeney wants to waste more of his billions so be it, but I gather the cash will run out next year leaving thousands in the ‘voluntary’ sector jobless.

    What about funding a re-training scheme for them?

    Methinks Monica left a year early as she could not bear working with any commissioners who were less than abject in their loyalty to her and CAJ/Atlantic’s mission to end politics now.

  • The Raven

    100 percent, Alias. I am still hoping for a loose alliance of independents to stand at the next election; just a bunch of people who will campaign on the issue of “smart vs not-smart”; “public-minded vs family interests and cabals”.

    But I think I am just dreaming aloud. Still, for the right people, in some constituencies anyway, there are anything up to 40% of the electorate going begging. Who will emerge….?

  • realistbutGFAsupporter

    Framer – Commissioners are appointed individually on their merits, so every single one of them should be judged on how many times they dissented from/abstained in Monica’s relentless flogging of the Bill of Rights dead horse, and/or on whether any one of the Comm’rs has the balls to challenge her dismantling of the NIHRC professional staff’ as a consequence of the ‘management review’ that she commissioned. BBC sources say the NIHRC will be reduced to two managers under the review – anyone out there think that sort of outfit can protect you from anything?

  • You can not make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear

  • Granni Trixie

    I can see why “someone” thought it a good idea. (but who?) It is notoriously difficult to get politicans to sit down for ed. programmes – they think they know it all. Also, money from Chuck Feeney brings with it baggage (ask the NIHRC) so there is even less chance that parties across the board will support.Also, it would be difficult for the fol;ks on the hill to say to this financial package whilst the NIO said the NIHRC could not avail of it.

    Point of info: pretty sure that AP monies due to end in 2015?

    Further point of info: Monica is leaving a year before her NIHRC contract runs out because according to UU rules her previous uni job remains for 6 years but no more. Its a no brainer in current context – who wouldn’t want to hold on a job when options run out?

  • Granni Trixie

    MIstake – should have written “said Yes to this financial package” ..sorry.

  • mopphead

    According to minutes of its Sept 2010 meeting, the Assembly Commisson “agreed in principle” with the Atlantic P funding package. All the main parties are represented on the Commission.

  • Granni Trixie

    Mopphead: thanks for the enlightenment. Though I would like to think our MLAs are interested in self improvement,whatever their reps on the Commission agreed, I predict there will be trouble. Same old,same old.

  • The Assembly Commission has agreed in principle with proposals contained in the bid drawn up by the AC’s Director of Engagement which was submitted for AP funding. It would still have to decide on any modification of such proposals by AP should the latter contemplate offering such funds.

  • Granni Trixie

    I see now where the process is at. …nothing decided yet but looks like this ‘news’ is intended to “put up a flag to see who salutes”.

  • MLAs have benefited from previous forays into leadership training. For example, back in 2002 the Committee for the Centre [now COFMDFM] travelled to Washington and Boston.

    In both Washington and Boston the Committee had an opportunity to explore a number of issues relevant to the forthcoming Review of Public Administration in Northern Ireland.



    Mr Edwin Poots MLA (Chairman)
    Mr Oliver Gibson MLA (Deputy Chairman)
    Mr Roy Beggs MLA
    Mrs Eileen Bell MLA
    Mr Duncan Shipley Dalton MLA
    Ms Patricia Lewsley MLA
    Dr Alasdair McDonnell MLA
    Mr Barry McElduff MLA
    Mr Eugene McMenamin MLA
    Mr Ken Robinson MLA
    Mr Jim Shannon MLA*


    Mr Hugh Farren, Committee Clerk
    Ms Stella McArdle, Committee Clerk
    Mr Hugh Widdis, Assembly Researcher

  • Pete Baker


    That particular tree is in a different forest.

  • Quat yer girning, Pete 🙂

    I’ve already posted a collection of Assembly Commission minutes on the topic and I had a little swipe at the effectiveness of such training [cf final line of you’re opening post]. I hope my contributions have brought some additional clarity to the discussion.

  • Pete Baker


    The minutes are on topic.

    The reference to the 2002 meetings, not so much.

    Feel free to add an argument to support your implied connection between the topic and those 2002 meetings.

    So far, that connection is conspicuous by its absence.

    It’s a tree in a different forest.

  • Pete, the ‘forests’ look very similar to me although copse might be a more apt metaphor. Topic rigidity and newspaper ‘cut and pastes’ can be a bid arid. I prefer the ‘conversation, politics and stray insights’ Slugger theme and I don’t feel the need to join up all the dots on all occasions.

    If you look more closely at the Boston and Washington connection you’ll see no charge to the public purse in 2002; leadership courses over a number of years for officials as well as MLAs; a strong Irish-American as distinct from an American input; an ‘island of Ireland’ as distinct from a Belfast Agreement agenda; and meetings with folks from other institutions of government. Is the AP ‘agenda’ likely to be that much different?