Trust Looking into the Health of Democracy in NI

Trust Looking into the Health of Democracy in NI

01 December 2016

As part of our work in Creative Space for Civic Thinking, the Trust has done a number of projects and pieces of work. We’re now happy to announce another research project we hope will expand the definition of democracy here in Northern Ireland.

The Trust has appointed Robin Wilson and Paul Nolan to carry out the research.

Paul Braithwaite, who heads up the Trust’s Creative Space for Civic Thinking work, said : ”Our work with the Civic Actvism Programme, the NI Open Government Network and our research into the Independence of the Sector has led us to question the role of the Northern Ireland Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise Sector as a voice within a healthy and functioning democracy.

‘’Particularly, we are interested in the sector’s role in a more participative or deliberative democracy.

‘’In short, we’d like to know how the sector can help people in Northern Ireland have a bigger say in the way their lives are run outside of simply turning up at the ballot box and voting.

‘’We’ve been thinking for some time  Northern Ireland is in need a more deliberative model of democracy – the repetitive cycle of institutional crisis legitimated by zero-sum elections is a dangerous game that can only go on so long.

‘’We think this research is a great first step’’.

Robin Wilson said: ‘’Eighteen years after the Belfast agreement, there are signs from survey data that some in Northern Ireland who might have felt happy to accept any democratic alternative to violence are now asking themselves ‘Is this as good as it gets?’.

‘’This investigation of the quality of democracy in Northern Ireland will be an interesting benchmark of where we are in that regard, and an indicator of where further progress could be made”.

Paul Nolan added: "What's exciting about this project is that nothing like this has ever been done before.

‘’We've had lots of analysis of the Assembly and how it's performing, but we've never been able to assess the wellsprings of democracy: what happens in the home, in the school, in the workplace and in the public space.

‘’What we're hoping to do is capture that most elusive thing, the quality of democracy as it is experienced in everyday life".

The research will be conducted in late 2016 and early 2017, with the Trust launching the findings at the 2017 Imagine Festival as part of ‘’Democracy Day’’.

More details will be announced in due course.