Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2014/2015

Date: 18 March 2014

Venue: Room 106, Parliament Buildings

The meeting opened at 4.06pm


Apologies are noted above.

Declaration of interests

No members declared an interest in relation to the agenda items.

2. Adoption of Previous Minutes

Minutes of the Meeting held 14th January 2014

Agreed: The minutes of the above meeting were agreed.

3. Matters Arising

The Chair advised the Group of two new staffing changes within Assembly Community Connect. He confirmed that Roisin Fleetham had been seconded to Education Services to cover as an Education Officer and he thanked her for her dedication. In Roisin’s place, he also extended a warm welcome to Gerardine Blee who joined Assembly Community Connect from Library Services.  

[4.10pm Dr Gareth McGrath joined the meeting] 

4. Feedback on Past ACC Events

a. Attendance Statistics

The Chair referred the group to a table detailing attendance figures in relation to previous ACC events. He highlighted the fact that both the community event involvement and the ACC training programmes currently in place continued to attract strong support from the third sector.

Dr Barlet inquired about the possibility of arranging events which would be specifically aimed at attracting ethnic minority groups. Louise Close confirmed that Assembly Community Connect had recently participated in a Black and Ethnic Minority (BEM) study visit on 21st January and that, on the back of this relationship, plans were currently underway to hold a BEM Parliament in May.

In addition Louise also noted that ethic minority groups were also encouraged to attend both the in house ACC training programme courses as well as the constituency “Get Involved” events.

Dr Barlet confirmed that the Get Involved event would be of interest and benefit to her friends in the Hungarian community and requested that she therefore be included in the arrangement details of these events. 

Action Point – Invite to be issued to Dr Barlet in respect of the forthcoming Ethnic Minority Get Involved event

b. Chinese New Year

The Chair advised the Group that ACC staff had hosted an exhibition stand at the Chinese New Year celebrations at the Belfast City Hall on 2nd February. He noted that, whilst the event had been very successful and levels of engagement very good, it was felt that, in view of the volume of family footfall, an interactive activity stand, co-hosted with Assembly Education Service might prove to be a most valuable mode of presentation for 2015.

c. The Pensioners Parliament

The Chair updated the Group on the Pensioner’s Parliament which took place on 21st January. He noted that this event had been a resounding success, enjoyed by the both the participants and Ministers, as well as the Speaker.  He confirmed the fact that it was hoped that the funding could be secured to replicate this events for many years to come.

5. Future ACC Events

a. ACC Forward Work Programme

The Chair directed the Group to the Forward Work Programme Schedule for 2014 events booked to date. He drew attention to the following: 

  • Get Involved Lagan Valley. The Chair noted that the Assembly Community Connect Get Involved Lagan Valley event due to take place on Friday 28th February had to be postponed as it clashed with the extra plenary day called for the same date. He added that this event had since been rescheduled for 28th March and additionally, at the time of the meeting that a total of 41 delegates had registered.
  • Get Involved North Antrim. The Chair noted that plans for an Assembly Community Connect Get Involved North Antrim were now well underway with the date being set as 4th April and a suitable venue in Ballymena now identified. 
  • BEM Parliament. The Chair noted that, in association with the Northern Ireland Council on Ethnic Minorities, plans was now well underway for a Black and Ethnic Minority (BEM) Get Involved and a Black and Ethnic Minority Parliament, the latter of which had been scheduled to take place on 1st May.

He reiterated his encouragement for ACC Advisory Group members to, whenever possible, attend and participate in these events.

Louise Close noted that she had recently attended a meeting with Co-operation Ireland in respect of the closure of Ballykinler Army Barracks. She drew attention to the fact that it had been proposed during the course of the meeting that some the individuals involved may be interested in attending the Lagan Valley Get Involved.

Action Point – Invite to be issued to associates of Ballykinler in respect of the forthcoming Get Involved Lagan Valley event. (28th March 2014)

b. External Events 

The Chair drew attention to a table highlighting the external events, organised by third party agencies which Assembly and Community Connect staff had been invited to participate in. These included:

  • Footprints Women’s Centre Poleglass – 05 March 2014
  • Shankhill Women’s Centre – 06 March 2014
  • NI Rural Women’s Network – Glenavon Hotel Cookstown 13 March 2014
  • North Down Community Network – Aurora Leisure Centre 20 March 2014
  • Women and Peace Building: Sharing the Learning Event – Titanic Belfast 20th March

c. CLIC Sargent Devine Challenge

The Chair drew the Group’s attention to a paper outlining an event currently being organised by the Devine family from Omagh in support of CLIC Sargent, the UK’s leading cancer charity for providing practical, emotional and financial support to children, young people and their families. He noted that the static bike cycling event would be taking place in the City Hall on Wednesday 2nd April and that relay teams from both the public and private sector were being put together to participate in this event.

Agreed: Advisory Group members agreed that a relay team of MLAs should be assembled to take part in this fundraiser and Members encouraged to take part.

Action Point – Invite to be issued to all MLAs in respect of the forthcoming fundraising event for CLIC Sargent.

d) Balmoral Show 2014

The Chair informed the Group that, following discussions with the Clerking Directorate, a decision had been taken not to take a stand at the Balmoral Show in May 2014. Louise Close expanded on this decision advising that:

  • In order to validate the cost of NI Assembly participation in the Balmoral Show, it was essential that four committees signed up to attend. However, due to anticipated workloads within their Forward Work Programmes, only two committees could guarantee involvement.
  • The date of the 2014 Balmoral Show coincided with the preparations for the European elections, which rendered it unfeasible for many of the MLAs.

6. Fellowships

a. Business in the Community

The Chair advised the Group that Sandra Overend visited Business in the Community on 31st January and that both NIBITC and Sandra had submitted written feedback in respect of this visit. As Sandra was attending a plenary session at the time of this meeting, the Chair advised the Group that she would also be providing an oral overview at the next Advisory Group meeting. 

Action Point – Sandra Overend to provide a verbal overview of her visit to Business in the Community at next Advisory Board meeting. 

b. Northern Ireland Environment Link

The Chair advised the Group that, on 14th February, he had spent the morning with NIEL. Again, both NIEL and Sammy Douglas had completed written feedback in respect of this visit. The Chair also provided the Group with a verbal update noting that:

  • Whilst he was aware of the work of NIEL through his role within the Connswater Community Greenway, the visit had highlighted local environmental issues which he had formally been unaware of and which impacted on his own constituency.
  • He had been extremely impressed with the warmth, vision and dedication of the management and staff and would be encouraging all MLAs to take time out of their busy schedules to spend time with this organisation in order to gain an insight into the work they were conducting.

There followed a discussion on the mutual benefits of MLA fellowship visit with Maeve McLaughlin proposing that NIABT organisations interested in taking part in this programme should be broken down by constituency and the associated MLAs invited to consider spending time with these businesses.  

Action Point – NIABT organisations to be categorised by constituency and MLAs invited to attend correlating fellowship visits.

7. Connecting Women with the Assembly

a. International Women's Day

The Chair noted that, at previous Advisory Group meetings, the challenges of engaging women with politics had been discussed and that these discussions had concluded with the view that it would be more beneficial to mark International Women's Day by building multiple, strong long term relationships than by hosting a one day event.

Louise Close provided the Group with an overview on the recent delivery of training to and engagement with local women's groups. She highlighted the fact that, in order to include as diverse a range as possible in this work, engagement had taken place in both rural and urban settings

Footprints Women's Centre, Poleglass

Assembly Community Connect was invited to deliver a presentation to Footprints Women's Centre on 5th March. The presentation, followed by a question and answer session was well attended and warmly received by the group who received delegate packs with information on the Assembly. The level of interest and engagement was such that the women have now registered to attend a follow up training session in Parliament Buildings.

Shankhill Women's Centre

Assembly Community Connect was invited to deliver a presentation to Shankhill Women's Centre on 6th March. Again the presentation was warmly received with a high level of interest and engagement. To complement the presentation on the Assembly, the Electoral Commission also attended the centre on this date to provide information to the group on the pre-election side of the process.

Rural Women's Network Event, Cookstown

On 13th March Assembly Community Connect were invited to host an exhibition stand at the Rural Women's Network celebration of International Women's Day. This cross community event, funded by the Community Relations Council included over 130 members of NIRWN and its support organisations. Guest speakers included Anne O'Reilly, NIRWM Chairperson, Michelle O'Neill, Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, Cliodhna Geraghty of South Armagh Rural Women's Network and Mary McSorley from the Equality Commission.

The theme of the conference was Inspiring Change, a theme echoed through the inspiring and poignant words of the speakers. Delegates at this event shared stories and information with many participating groups and organisations, reinforcing existing links and forging new ones.

Women and Peace Building: Sharing the Learning Event – Titanic Belfast

Assembly Community Connect have been invited to host an exhibition stand at the forthcoming Women and Peace Building: Sharing the Learning Event.  This event, which aims to attract over 300 attendees, includes keynotes speakers Professor Monica McWilliams, Commissioner Kathryn Stone, OBE of the Victims Commission and Diana Dodds MEP. It is hoped again that, as with the Rural Women’s Network event, this event will prove to be a very productive networking opportunity for Assembly Community Connect

8. Connecting Ethnic Minorities with the Assembly

a. Black and Ethnic Minority Parliament 

The Chair directed the Group to a paper which outlined the proposal for a BME Parliament which would take place on 1st May 2014. He noted that the event, which would recruit attendees of all ages from a mix of rural and urban areas, would be organised in association with the Northern Ireland Centre for Ethnic Minorities (NICEM) and that the itinerary would reflect the format of the Pensioners Parliament which took place earlier in the year.

He highlighted the fact that the aim event would focus on three key areas, Employment and Learning, Health and Social Development and Justice and that the aim of the event would be to increase the confidence of BME community members to speak up and to encourage the progression of their engagement with the democratic process.

Agreed: the Group agreed to support the recommendation that an Ethnic Minority Parliament should be held on 1st May and that, where possible, members of the Advisory Group should attend.

b. Ethnic Minorities Get Involved  

The Chair advised the group that, as discussed at the last meeting, Assembly Community Connect had also agreed to host a Get Involved event specifically aimed at attracting ethnic minority community. He confirmed that the date for this event had now been identified as 2nd June and that a full programme was currently being developed.  

Action Point – Ethnic Minority Get Involved event to be arranged for 2nd June

c. VOTE! Campaign  

The Chair referred the Group to a paper outlining the concept of the “VOTE! You’re at Home Campaign,”   the aim of which is to increase voter education and turnout and to eliminate voter participation barriers. Aimed predominately at the 22,900 EU citizens registered to vote in Northern Ireland, the campaign was designed to mobilize these citizens and other ethnic minority communities living in Northern Ireland to register as voters. 

It was noted that this project started in September 2013 with the intention of joining forces between the Polish City Club (London), Aspire Project, VOTE! and the School for Leaders Association (Warsaw, Poland).

It was further noted that Vote! had now developed a training programme to help community leaders, board members and volunteers learn how to mobilize citizens to participate in elections and that the campaign had been launched at Parliament Buildings on 10th March.

The paper also confirmed that a training session for people working in the BME sector was to be held at the EU Commission Office on Saturday 29th March.

Agreed: the Group agreed to engage with Vote! representatives in order to establish an effective working relationship

Agreed: the Group agreed to work with Vote! in order to deliver a Get Involved Ethnic Minorities event

d. Electoral Registration for Ethnic Minorities

The Chair reminded the Group that, at the last meeting, they had discussed a NI Assembly research paper which contained information and statistics on voting patterns as broken down by gender and ethnicity. Anna Lo had asked for clarification on the citizens of the countries listed in the paper and their eligibility to vote in NI elections. In turn the Electoral Office had provided a list of countries as defined by the following categories:

  • Commonwealth countries
  • British Overseas Territory
  • European Union Member States

Additionally they had supplied the guidelines relating to each category, the details of which the Group noted.

9. Connecting People with Disabilities with the Assembly

a. Westminster Outreach Meeting

The Chair informed the group that Sharon Stanley, who delivers training to adults with learning difficulties at Westminster, would be meeting with Assembly Community Connect Staff on 24th March It was hoped that this visit would present a good opportunity to discuss the development of ACC training structures already in places in order to enhance the current programmes in order to extend the training to adults with learning difficulties.

b. Autism Training

The Chair advised the Group that, to date, two of the Assembly Community Connect staff had been trained in assisting people with autism.

c. Disability Action Group

Louise Close noted that she had recently attended a meeting of the Disability Advisory Group where she discussed the sourcing similar training courses in support of the RNIB and RNID.

10. NIA Charity Implementation Policy

Louise Close provided the Group with an overview of the NI Assembly Charity Implementation Policy.  She confirmed that the Assembly’s Charity Policy Implementation Plan was currently being reviewed for submission to the Commission for agreement in May. She further confirmed that the Speaker had chosen the theme of poverty for the 2014 - 2015 fundraising programme and that Assembly staff would play a role in the process by selecting the specific charity once the appropriate screening criteria had been applied.

[4.10pm Dr Gareth McGrath leaves the meeting]

There followed a discussion, led by Dr Barlet on the “Big Lunch” event scheduled to take place in Northern Ireland on Sunday 1st June.

Action Point – Further details to be sourced on the Big Lunch event.

9. Any Other Business 

Louise Close opened a discussion on the best options in relation to format of the AGM. She highlighted the many success stories including the consistently excellent feedback from the training sessions and the vast increase in the amount of twitter followers. Dr Barlet suggested that, as part of the preparations for this event, she would be happy to interview course participants.

Action Point – Dr Barlet to assist in the preparations for the ACC AGM

[4.10pm Dr Gareth McGrath re-joins the meeting]

10. Date and Time of Next Meeting

The date and time of the next meeting was agreed as: 

4.00pm on Tuesday 13th May 2014

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