Strengthening Democracy and Reconciliation

Strengthening Democracy and Reconciliation
A panel discussion on strengthening democracy and reconciliation through ethical and respectful political discourse.


12:00PM – 1:30PM

David Hill Studio, Crescent Arts Centre, 2-4 University Road


Panellists include:

  • Cara Hunter MLA, East Derry
  • Councillor Linzi McLaren, Ards and North Down Borough Council
  • Alison Allen, NI Local Government Association,
  • A representative from the Jo Cox Foundation, founded after the murder of Jo Cox MP in 2016
  • Others TBC

In the course of the Troubles, political representatives constantly faced threats, abuse, petrol bombs and direct personal attack on them and their families. Tragically, a number of political representatives in North and the South, from across the divide, were murdered in this brutal and sectarian period. Some paramilitary organisations were attempting to undermine the very basis of democracy itself.

25 years on from the Good Friday Agreement we may have a reached a period of relative peace, but we now face a new, real present danger, a toxic political discourse. The brutal murder in Britain of Jo Cox MP and Sir David Amess MP reminds us that democracy comes at a high price. The growing number of negative and abusive experiences of women representatives in the North and South is a serious concern about the targeting of an already underrepresented group in parliamentary democracy.

Over the last 18 months, the John and Pat Hume Foundation and Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation have been listening to the experiences of the Jo Cox Foundation, NI Local Government Association, the Association of Irish Local Government and to current and former political representatives from across the island. It was shocking to hear horrendous stories about misogyny, racism, sectarianism, personal threat and verbal and physical abuse. We heard of instances where, for their self-protection, some politicians do not hold constituency surgeries; feel forced to wear a stab vest; are concerned about risk created by the public availability of their home addresses and where politicians’ families also experience fear and threat. This is alarming and unacceptable.

We recognise that robust debate and scrutiny are essential aspects of our democratic process. Difference and respectful debate on competing ideas is a positive and healthy feature of public discourse in free societies.

Today, difference in political discourse is too often perceived and experienced as negative, acrimonious, partisan, and polarising as some politicians, their followers and opponents engage in hostile rhetoric.

As John Hume said in his Nobel Peace Prize address: “Difference is an accident of birth, and it should therefore never be the source of hatred or conflict. The answer to difference is to respect it.”

The John and Pat Hume Foundation and Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation want to urge political parties, candidates, party members and the wider public to commit to respectful campaigning, and positively shape political discourse.

At the event, we will be launching a Civility Pledge and invite you to join us in this important discussion on Strengthening Democracy and Reconciliation through Ethical and Respectful Political Discourse.

Image Credit: Savvas Stavrinos


We’ll be in touch.