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Virtual Citizens' Assembly should be convened, says Muir

A virtual Citizens’ Assembly should be convened to help meet commitments made in the New Decade, New Approach agreement, Alliance MLA Andrew Muir has said.

The North Down MLA was speaking after asking the First Minister and Deputy First Minister for an update on the Citizens’ Assembly and Compact Civic Advisory Panel, which were commitments in the agreement which saw the return of power-sharing a year ago. An Assembly brings together members of the public to discuss and provide recommendations on how to resolve major issues in society.

However, while the answer stated the Ministers were committed to the re-establishment of the Panel and convening at least one Assembly a year, preparatory work had been impacted because of the pandemic.

“Citizens’ Assemblies have a proven track record for engaging local people to provide real solutions to some of the biggest issues in society,” said Mr Muir.

“Many of the challenges we face – Brexit, social deprivation and the climate emergency – will be with us for some time. A Citizens’ Assembly could play a crucial role in helping us build back better from the pandemic, while also tackling these issues.

“I appreciate the current circumstances not only have prevented some of the preparation work being done but stop a meeting of a Citizens’ Assembly. However, in the modern world in which many meetings take place virtually, there is nothing preventing such a gathering taking place for an Assembly.

“We cannot allow this to become another unfulfilled promise. I urge the Executive Office to put serious consideration to this proposal and deliver something which will benefit us all.”