Dr John Garry (QUB)
How can the quality of governance in Northern Ireland be enhanced? This presentation addresses this broad question by focusing on the extent to which the quality of democratic decision making in Northern Ireland may be increased by facilitating a role for the considered views of citizens. Specifically, it suggests a feasible and cost-effective way of putting deliberative democracy into effect at either the local government level or Northern Ireland government level: citizens are provided with balanced information and arguments on a particular issue, reflect upon the range of views on the issue and indicate a preference on how to resolve the issue. The presentation reports the results of our Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) funded project – Transforming Democracy in the Post Conflict Setting. The evidence is based on original surveys of citizens, a survey of MLAs (of all parties) and a pilot test of citizen deliberation on a contention issue (flag display) that will of crucial importance to local government and NI-wide governance. The presentation elaborates evidence-based suggestions as to how the voice of citizens can most effectively be brought into decison making (on any issue) and it specifies the advantages and disadvantages of so doing.