When Stormont was ‘up and running’ we asked, “How do we get the institutions to work better?” Since Stormont’s collapse, this evolved to, “How do we get the institutions restored?” In the Northern Ireland Assembly’s continued absence, is it time we shifted our horizon?

The Good Friday Agreement would never have succeeded had it not been for the politicians at the time who were willing to take risks and communities determined to do the work ‘on the ground’. At Northern Slant we don’t get depressed about the current state of the political landscape, we exist to challenge it and try to make sense of the bigger picture – considering the opportunities for civil society to lead, not just politicians, and break the cycle of pessimism.

Despite the two-year absence of politicians making decisions ‘on the hill’, the world has continued to turn. We’ve seen businesses become increasingly vocal on social issues, such as their support for same-sex marriage legislation; alongside the farming community they’ve been very publicly at odds with political representatives throughout the process of Brexit negotiations. The analysis of academics at our universities has proved invaluable since the referendum. Having seen the first Citizens’ Assembly in Northern Ireland towards the end of last year, will, and should, this become a regular feature?

Who are political leaders, exactly? How does politics and change really happen? On Monday 25 March, in Pug Uglys bar in Belfast, we’re bringing an expert panel together to explore what opportunities exist for businesses, councils, community associations and more – what we can all do, as citizens, not just voters – to shape our future for the better. We want to hear and learn from you too, so bring your questions and recommendations!

Our panellists are: Aodhán Connolly, Director, NI Retail Consortium; Linda Ervine, Irish language Development Officer, East Belfast Mission; Karen Smyth, Head of Policy and Governance, Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA); Grainne Walsh, Head of Consultancy at Stratagem Public Affairs and member of Citizens’ Assembly Advisory Board; John McCallister, former MLA; currently Land Mobility Manager at Ulster Farmers’ Union and Northern Ireland Human Rights Commissioner.

This event sums up what we’re all about at Northern Slant – providing a shared space for constructive voices whatever their background or perspective, to promote positive change in our political discourse and attitudes.

This event is kindly sponsored by the Linen Quarter BID – leading the development of Belfast’s newest destination for hospitality and debate. Want to be part of Northern Slant’s community of writers/contributors? Let us know via our Contact Us page. You can follow Northern Slant on Twitter @Northernslant and on Facebook.

Tickets for Northern Slant’s upcoming event ‘Politics Beyond Politicians’ on Monday 25 March are limited, so early registration is required. Tickets can be purchased via main event listing here.

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