Funding has been announced for a new Citizen’s Assembly in Northern Ireland.
The body will be made up of up to 100 people, randomly selected, with the aim to debate and vote on issues that politicians have been unable to resolve.
Like a jury, members would be asked to deliberate on an issue following the presentation of evidence from a range of experts who would ultimately vote to determine a position.
The topic for the Citizens’ Assembly would be selected by an independent steering group based on agreed criteria, such as the likelihood of recommendations being acted upon, after consultation with political representatives and others.
The Republic of Ireland established a Citizens’ Assembly as part of its commitment to a Partnership Approach in Government.
In 2016, the Dáil tasked the Citizens’ Assembly with considering and making recommendations on a number of issues including climate change, responding to an ageing population, referendums and fixed term parliaments.
The Building Change Trust, who support and invest in the voluntary and community sector in Northern Ireland, have announced funding for the first Citizens’ Assembly.
Programme Leader, Paul Braithwaite said:
“Building Change Trust believes that by engaging with political parties and the voluntary/community sector, a Citizens’ Assembly could play a key role in dealing with many outstanding and unresolved matters which remain, 20 years after the establishment of our political institutions."
Mr Braithwaite added: “Social issues play an increasing role in political debate, not to mention academic selection, Brexit and reform of our health service. With a fair political wind the NI Assembly may be back in business by then, but whether it is sitting or not, unresolved issues will remain; issues where a Citizens’ Assembly could play a vital, complementary role to that of elected representatives, putting the voice of the citizen at the heart of political decisions and clawing back credibility and trust in our institutions.”