Representative democracy and its likely (and perhaps unlikely) rivals to power

Whilst Citizen’s Assemblies are not the panacea that some of their advocates suggest, what they can do is reveal otherwise unregarded characteristics of the electorate to elected representatives. As Jamie Pow notes in Fortnight Magazine, the New Decade, New Approach Deal document pledges to hold regular citizens’ assemblies that might bring democratic institutions and the people closer. But he says, they must be meaningful. Well, quite. As The Economist noted last week… …because citizens’ assemblies reflect the population, their conclusions …

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“Most people believe social care should be free, but there’s a lot of confusion out there”

Social care must be reformed. If it wasn’t clear before the Covid-19 pandemic, it has become tragically obvious over recent weeks. So this is an opportune time to hear in the latest Holywell Trust Forward Together podcast from Deirdre Heenan, professor of social policy at Ulster University and joint author nine years ago of a major study into Northern Ireland’s health and social care system. “The vast majority of people accept and want the NHS to be free at the …

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A Border Poll one day? Then let’s do it right

In yet another eventful couple of weeks in politics, what caught my eye the most wasn’t plans for a national broadband service, fanciful budget splurges or cringey speeches and interviews. It wasn’t mini-electoral pacts across dozens of seats in England and the ever-changing sands of political alignment over the Great Brexit Divide. Closer to home, it wasn’t even Lady Hermon stepping down, loyalist paramilitary threats to UUP candidates, a stage-managed Sinn Fein leadership contest or the tiny dramas of other …

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An insider’s view of Northern Ireland’s first Citizens’ Assembly

Catherine Leonard is a recent graduate from Ulster University’s Master of Science degree in Communications and Public Relations and was one of the eighty members of the Citizens’ Assembly that met over two recent weekends to examine the policy area and bring forward recommendations around social care for the elderly.

Are the terms civic “unionists” and civic “nationalists” an oxymoron?

  Over the past year we’ve heard many laments about the vacuum in decision taking but little specifically critical of politics from leaders of society. That’s par for the course for people who  have been keeping our  show on the road for decades. Few of them had little respect for political parties who in their view held society back. But now twenty years after the GFA and after a year – or many years by another measure – of deadlock, …

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What a Citizen’s Assembly can do for NI politics…

YouTube video

The Building Change Trust is funding a pilot Citizens’ Assembly initiative to take place in Northern Ireland in 2018 around a single topic. The project will be delivered by Involve – a charity that specialises in public participation.

More information on the nuts and bolts of the project can be found on the Trust’s website here. In this short video, the Trust’s Paul Braithwaite explains how he thinks a Citizens’ Assembly could play an important role in refreshing Northern Ireland’s democracy.

Time to bring the citizen back in?

As Steven Agnew of the Green Party calls for a Citizens Assembly for Northern Ireland, Robin Wilson writes about the idea which has been under development by a group of citizens and voluntary sector organisations facilitated by the Building Change Trust over the past 6 months. Northern Ireland seems once again to have reverted to a default state of political dysfunctionality, with months and potentially years of further reluctantly-assumed direct rule from Westminster looming, with its associated ‘democratic deficit’. While …

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The Citizens’ Assembly has spoken: We must repeal the 8th Amendment.

  Over the past weekend the Citizens’ Assembly in Ireland finished hearing testimony and voted on the issue of abortion. The results were surprisingly and emphatically pro-choice, and they represent a resounding success for this experiment with deliberative democracy. Democracy was meant to be deliberative. The idea was that citizens, motivated not by selfish or sectarian drives but by civic duty, would discuss the issues facing their society with a view to arriving at the best possible outcome for everybody. …

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