Good Relations Action Plan 2022 - 2025
Any requests to receive this document in an alternative language or format will be considered. Please contact email@example.com
- 1.0 Introduction
- 2.0 What is the Assembly Commission?
- 3.0 Equality Scheme Commitments
- 4.0 What do we mean by Good Relations?
- 5.0 Good Relations in the Assembly Commission (What we have achieved so far)
- 6.0 How the plan was developed (How we reviewed our last plan and developed our current plan)
- 7.0 Reviewing the Plan
- Annex 1 Overview of consultation stages
- Annex 2 Good Relations Action Plan 2022-25
1.1 This document sets out the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission’s (“the Assembly Commission”) commitment to Good Relations and provides information on its Good Relations Action Plan for the 2022 to 2025 period.
1.2 The Good Relations Action Plan 2022-25 contains a number of actions about how the Assembly Commission will meet its obligations under Section 75(2) of the Northern Ireland Act, 1998 as described in the Assembly Commission’s Equality Scheme. The Good Relations Action Plan 2022-25 also supports and contributes to the Assembly Commission’s Corporate Strategy 2018-23.
1.3 In order to develop the Good Relations Action Plan 2022-25, a consultation plan was developed. A brief overview of the consultation phases which were undertaken are provided at Annex 1.
1.4 A public consultation exercise was undertaken from August 2022 to November 2022 in order to establish whether the actions included in the Good Relations Action Plan 2022-25 needed to be amended or whether there were additional actions that needed to be considered.
1.5 The public consultation exercise closed on 1 November 2022. All consultee responses were analysed and an Equality Consultation Report was produced in November 2022 which detailed the Assembly Commission’s response to consultee comments.
1.6 The Good Relations Action Plan was approved by the Assembly Commission’s Senior Management Team (SMT) in December 2022 and by the Assembly Commission in February 2023.
2.0 What is the Assembly Commission?
2.1 The Assembly Commission finds its statutory basis in Section 40 and Schedule 5 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998. As a body corporate, it is responsible for providing the property, services and staff required for the Northern Ireland Assembly’s purposes. Membership of the Assembly Commission comprises the Speaker to the Northern Ireland Assembly as Chair and five other Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) appointed by the Northern Ireland Assembly.
2.2 The Assembly Commission employs staff to support its work. The SMT leads and directs the work of Assembly Commission staff and comprises the Clerk / Chief Executive, the Director of Parliamentary Services, the Director of Corporate Services and the Director of Legal, Governance and Research Services.
3.0 Equality Scheme Commitments
3.1 Under Section 75(2) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 (‘the 1998 Act), the Assembly Commission has a statutory duty ‘to have regard to the desirability of promoting good relations between persons of different religious belief, political opinion or racial group’.
3.2 The Assembly Commission's Equality Scheme is both a statement of its arrangements for fulfilling the Section 75 statutory duties and a plan for their implementation.
3.3 This Good Relations Action Plan 2022-25 sets out how the Assembly Commission proposes to fulfil the Good Relations duty and its Equality Scheme commitments in relation to its staff and those who may visit or use Parliament Buildings (either physically or virtually).
4.0 What do we mean by Good Relations?
4.1 Section 75 of the 1998 Act requires all public authorities designated for the purposes of the Act, including the Assembly Commission, to comply with two statutory duties. The first duty is the Equality of Opportunity duty, which requires public authorities in carrying out their functions relating to Northern Ireland to have due regard to the need to promote equality of opportunity between the nine ‘equality categories’. The second duty, the Good Relations duty, requires that public authorities in carrying out their functions relating to Northern Ireland have regard to the desirability of promoting good relations between persons of different: -
- religious belief;
- political opinion; and
- racial group.
4.2 While Section 75 of the 1998 Act does not define ‘good relations’, the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland’s (ECNI) 2007 review of the effectiveness of Section 75 found that public authorities tended to focus on the equality of opportunity duty rather than the good relations duty when addressing their commitment to Section 75. The ECNI suggest that given that Section 75(2) is a legal requirement, it is vital that the good relations duty is taken seriously. It is important that its integration and implementation can be demonstrated and reported upon.
4.3 The Assembly Commission is committed to equality of opportunity and good relations. On 10 December 2009, the Assembly Commission approved its Good Relations commitment and stated:
“The Northern Ireland Assembly Commission is committed to the promotion of good relations between persons of differing religious belief, political opinion or racial group and is committed to challenging sectarianism and racism.”
This commitment was made in the context of the Assembly Commission further stating that it will aim to ensure that the entire community can have full and fair access to, and participate in, the operations of the Northern Ireland Assembly.
5.0 Good Relations in the Assembly Commission (What we have achieved so far)
5.1 The Good Relations Action Plan 2022-25 is the fourth Good Relations Action Plan that the Assembly Commission has submitted to the ECNI to show how it plans to fulfil the Good Relations duty. Previous Good Relations Action Plans and six-monthly monitoring reports can be accessed on the Assembly website.
5.2 Some measures which have been accomplished so far in relation to the Good Relations duty are as follows:
- Conducted a Good Relations and Accessibility Visitor Survey a number of times each year and utilised findings to help inform the Assembly Commission’s work;
- Completed an Equality Impact Assessment (EQIA) on the flying of the Union Flag at Parliament Buildings;
- Held inclusive events to mark anniversaries within the ‘Decade of Centenaries’ as part of the Assembly Commission’s ‘Perspective on’ series;
- Increased engagement with minority ethnic communities through the Assembly Community Connect Programme and increased their participation on the programme;
- Conducted an Equality and Good Relations Survey with Assembly Commission staff which helped to inform our work;
- Disseminated mandatory online staff training in Equality and Good Relations;
- Delivered ‘Get Involved’ conferences with Minority Ethnic groups;
- Increased access to information in Irish, through the Assembly Commission’s Education Service, by the provision of an Irish language champion and delivery of the Assembly’s education programme in Irish;
- Held Speaker’s, and other events, to include external guests and organisations to highlight their work in the wider community and to increase their participation and inclusion in events held at Parliament Buildings;
- Improved access opportunities for people to contribute to policy development and legislative scrutiny processes through the advertisement of committee stage of Bills in each of the main daily newspapers offering opportunities to all sections of the community to submit evidence.
6.0 How the plan was developed (How we reviewed our last plan and developed our current plan)
6.1 During research on the 5-Year review of the application of the Assembly Commission’s Equality Scheme 2016-21, additional equality issues were identified as requiring future actions to be developed, some of which related to the area of Good Relations.
To address these issues, an Equality Scheme Audit of Inequalities Action Plan was developed to sit alongside the Assembly Commission’s Equality Scheme 2022-26. The good relations issues that were identified through this research were included in the Good Relations Action Plan 2022-25.
6.2 A closure report was completed on the Good Relations Action Plan 2016-21 and this also informed the development of the current Good Relations Action Plan 2022-25. The aim of this closure report was to:
- review implementation to assess whether the stated aims of the plan were achieved;
- assess performance against actions;
- identify and recognise achievements;
- identify the challenges and lessons learnt; and
- identify the next steps.
6.3 In addition, the Good Relations Action Plan 2022-25 aligns with the Assembly Commission’s Corporate Strategy 2018-23 which integrates Equality and Good Relations actions. The Corporate Plan 2019-23 sets out key projects and priorities the Assembly Commission intends to deliver in carrying out the role of providing support and advice to the Assembly.
6.4 In developing the Good Relations Action Plan 2022-25, policy leads/Heads of Business from across the Assembly Commission’s Directorates, who were responsible for the delivery of the previous Good Relations Action Plan 2016-21, were asked to complete a questionnaire in relation to the previous action plan’s operation, implementation and impact. Questions were also included in relation to the identification of new sources of equality and good relations data and/or any lessons learned from previous Good Relations Plans or actions which should be included when developing the new Good Relations Action Plan 2022-25. We conducted this review as part of phase-one of the Good Relations Consultation Plan.
6.5 Phase-two of the consultation sought internal feedback from Assembly Commission staff through face to face meetings.
6.6 As part of phase-two of the consultation, we hosted an online meeting with approximately 10 representatives from minority ethnic groups in Northern Ireland, including members of the North West Migrants Forum and The Executive Office (TEO) sponsored Race Equality sub-group. The meeting discussed issues and perceived barriers concerning the participation of minority ethnic communities with the work of the Assembly; in particular, language-related concerns.
6.7 As a follow-up to the online meeting with minority ethnic groups, an online survey was issued to the same representatives as part of the development process of the Good Relations Action Plan 2022-25. The Executive Office (TEO) also issued the survey link to approximately 40 of its minority ethnic member organisations. Those who received the link were encouraged to pass it on to other minority ethnic individuals in their local community. The survey was designed to ascertain if: -
- any barriers or obstacles existed which might prevent or limit engagement with the Assembly Commission; and
- how these barriers can be overcome?
The survey was conducted between July and August 2021. A total of 109 valid responses were received. The largest single ethnic group was White (22.9%), followed by Arab (15.6%), Black African (14.7%) and Indian (9.2%). Nearly a third of respondents (29.4%) declared they were from ‘other’ ethnic groups. In total, the survey was completed by individuals from 20 different ethnicities or countries of origin.
Respondents came from across Northern Ireland, with 16 of the 18 constituencies represented in the survey. Only Newry and Armagh and Strangford were absent. The largest number of respondents were based in East Antrim and North Antrim (13.8%), followed by Belfast South (11.9%), Belfast North (11.0%) and Foyle (10.1%). We analysed this data in detail when developing the Good Relations Action Plan 2022-25.
6.8 In phase 3, a public consultation on the Good Relations Action Plan 2022-25 was conducted from August 2022 to November 2022.
6.9 All consultee responses were analysed and an Equality Consultation Report was produced in November 2022 which detailed the Assembly Commission’s response to consultee comments.
6.10 The Good Relations Action Plan was approved by the SMT in December 2022 and by the Assembly Commission in February 2023.
7.0 Reviewing the Plan
7.1 Progress on the implementation of the Good Relations Action Plan 2022-25 will be monitored on a six-monthly basis and reported to SMT. Six-monthly monitoring progress updates will be published on the Assembly website. As the Good Relations Action Plan 2022-25 is a ‘living’ document, opportunities to amend the plan, should this be necessary, will be available during each six-monthly monitoring cycle.
7.2 Each year progress made on the implementation of the Good Relations Action Plan 2022-25 will be included in the Assembly Commission’s Annual Equality Progress Report, which will be submitted to the ECNI and published on the Assembly website.
7.3 The actions contained within the Good Relations Action Plan 2022-25 aligns with the Corporate Strategy and Corporate Plan, this will ensure that equality and good relations continue to be addressed at a strategic level and are integrated throughout the organisation.
 Equality Commission for Northern Ireland (2007). Keeping it Effective: Reviewing the Effectiveness of Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998.