Establish a Citizens' Assembly for Northern Ireland
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We want the Northern Ireland office to establish a Citizens’ Assembly made up of 100 randomly selected residents of Northern Ireland to meet regularly, placing the citizen at the heart of important legal and policy issues facing Northern Irish society today.
With the benefit of expert, impartial and factual advice the 100 citizen members will consider pre agreed topics that are of importance to the people of Northern Ireland and any other matters that may be referred to them. Their conclusions will form the basis of a number of reports and recommendations that will be submitted to senior civil servants, the NI Assembly or direct rule ministers.
Why does it matter?
There has been a political vacuum in Northern Ireland since January 2017. The elected representatives of the two main political parties have been unable to agree a way forward to resume power sharing and there is a real risk that direct rule from Westminster or an extended period of limbo will be the new normal for Northern Ireland.
In this situation there is no opportunity for the people of Northern Ireland to have a say in important decisions that affect them. Decisions will be either made by civil servants or direct rule ministers, neither of whom are accountable to the electorate.
There are many important issues that Government Departments have been unable to move forward with due to an absence of Ministers to make decisions. Going forward these decisions will have to be made by direct rule minister or senior civil servants. A Citizens Assembly and an obligation for government bodies to listen to and act on its recommendations, would provide assurance that the decisions will be informed by public opinion.
Not only in these circumstances but in the unlikely event of a resumption of the NI Assembly, a Citizens Assembly would ensure that people who are disillusioned with the polarised nature of current political dialogue are given a voice.
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