Upstairs at Pug Uglys, Bedford Street
25th March: 6.30pm – 8.30pm (doors 6.00pm)

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 Assembly’s continued absence, is it time we shifted our horizon?

Businesses have become increasingly vocal on social issues; alongside the farming community they’ve been very publicly at odds with political representatives over Brexit. The analysis of academics at Northern Ireland’s universities has proved invaluable since the referendum. Having seen the first Citizens’ Assembly in Northern Ireland – will, and should, this become a regular feature?

Join Northern Slant and a panel of civic leaders and commentators to explore what opportunities exist for businesses, trade unions, charities, churches, universities and more to help shape our future.

Our panellists are:

Aodhán Connolly, Director, NI Retail Consortium: Before being appointed Director of the NI Retail Consortium (NIRC), Aodhán worked extensively with politicians and other decision makers at all levels on behalf a of clients including the Freight Transport Association, George Best Belfast City Airport, the Utility Regulator, Asda and the NIRC. He has lobbied on issues such as young people not in employment, education or training (NEETs), the environment, trade regulation, commercial rates and public health. Aodhán has argued that uncertainty around Brexit may have inadvertently served as a catalyst in ensuring civic and business society in Northern Ireland has a greater say in creating a better place to work, live, visit and invest.

Linda Ervine, Irish language Development Officer, East Belfast Mission: Linda is an Irish language rights activist hailing from a Protestant Unionist background, bringing all sides of the community together to learn the language – particularly connecting people from Protestant communities to their own history with the language. Linda’s Turas project – which is the Irish word for ‘journey’ – is based on the belief that the language belongs to everyone and that it can be a mechanism of reconciliation in Northern Ireland. It provides a reasonable voice, factual information and challenges myths around the Irish language. Linda will host her own event during the Imagine! festival: The Irish language is not a weapon but an invaluable tool for unity takes place on Friday 29th March, 3pm-4pm at the Black Box Green Rom in Hill Street. You can find more information here.

Karen Smyth, Head of Policy and Governance, Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA): Karen takes a particular interest in policy on planning, regeneration, and the circular economy in addition to policy on local government structure, operation and finance. She has a background in Environmental Health and worked in councils as an Environmental Health Officer for ten years prior to joining NILGA. She is currently a non-executive director of Sustainable NI and has held similar directorships on a number of other organisations over the years, including Building Change Trust.

Grainne Walsh, Head of Consultancy at Stratagem Public Affairs and member of Citizens’ Assembly Advisory Board: Gráinne has been supporting organisations to shape the political and policy landscape in Northern Ireland for over fifteen years. She builds public affairs, consultation, media and communications capacity within organisations. She also advises on Community Development Plans and Local Development Plans. She has worked across all government departments and with every party over the lifetime of three assemblies, as well as extensive engagement at Westminster, Whitehall and local government. Gráinne is a member of the Institute of Directors, Association of Professional Political Consultants, an Associate of the Consultation Institute, Chair of Housing Rights Service and a former member of the NI Chamber of Commerce Council.

Northern Slant provides a space for new and seasoned bloggers to begin a conversation on Northern Ireland and share perspectives on the world we live in. We seek to showcase a new, diverse Northern Ireland. Through current affairs, lifestyle and leisure, our platform welcomes perspectives from bloggers of different backgrounds and with varied interests and experiences, living in Northern Ireland and further afield.

This event is kindly sponsored by the Linen Quarter BID – leading the development of Belfast’s newest destination for hospitality and debate.

date & time

date & time

Mon. 25th March


Pug Uglys,
21 Bedford Street, BT2 7EJ


Tickets £5 / £3 concessions

venue location

event partners