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How is our work influencing life in Northern Ireland and delivering equality? Learn more about our policy, legal and research work.


Participation in public life

What you need to know



Public Life logoThe Equality Commission has published a Statement on Key Inequalities in Participation in Public Life in Northern Ireland which highlights our assessment of  inequalities in participation in public faced by equality groups across the Section 75 equality categories in Northern Ireland.

Download our Statement on Key Inequalities in Participation in Public Life:

Key Inequalities, Data Gaps & Limitations
Alongside data gaps a number of differences and wider inequalities, three key inequalities have been identified for participation in public life:

  • There are significant and specific data gaps across all areas of public life in relation to the participation of equality groups within the nine grounds. 
  • In the areas of public life where data is collected, the availability of data is often limited, patchy and often not disaggregated.
  • Only three of nineteen areas of public life collect and report quantitative data findings on a regular basis, namely: government public appointments; elected representatives; and access to the voting system.
  • There is a complete absence of data for the specific Section 75 grounds of marital status, dependent status and sexual orientation, across all areas of public life.  

There is an underrepresentation of persons with a disability in applications/appointments to government public appointments

Little improvement has been made in terms of the levels of appointments of persons with disabilities being made to government to public appointments over the period 2006-2016 (2% 2006 and 3% in 2016). Further, during the period 2008-2016, there has been a consistent underrepresentative of persons with a disability as applicants to government public appointments ranging from 2% to 5% annually.

Women are underrepresented within elected positions in Northern Ireland and within government public appointments

Women are underrepresented within elected positions in Northern Ireland, including MPs (22%), MLAs (30%), Local Councillors (25%), and Council Mayor/Chairpersons (23%).

Women are underrepresented within government public appointments. There continues to be an underrepresentation of women, when compared to their share of the population, in government public appointments (41%) and as publicly appointed chairpersonships (24%), having increased slightly since the inequality was highlighted in the Commission’s 2007 Statement on Key Inequalities.

There are no elected representatives from ethnic minority backgrounds

There are no elected representatives from ethnic minority backgrounds.  Currently, there is no political presence in terms of ethnic minorities within the Northern Ireland Assembly. However, previously (2007-2016) one MLA (Anna Lo, Alliance party) was elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly. 

In compiling this Statement, the Commission has drawn on a wide range of sources including research reports from government departments, the community and voluntary sectors, academic research and the Commission’s own research archive. In addition, we contracted independent research Ipsos Mori. Associated stakeholder engagement also played a key role.

Download research 'Inequalities in Participation in Public Life in Northern Ireland':

This statement on Key Inequalities in Participation in Public Life is part of a series of statements which will examine key issues across various areas where people in Northern Ireland face inequality. It will update the our work on key inequalities carried out in 2007 (pdf)


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