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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:
Policy priorities and recommendations

What you need to know

Consultation responses



Participation in Public Life - Policy Priorities and recommendations

Participation in Public Life logo
Participation in public life includes the way in which people contribute to, or are involved in, public decision making (such as board membership).  It can also include the way in which people participate in political life (eg. political representatives; members of political fora).  This involvement can be at various levels.

Diversity in public life, and ensuring the participation of people from all types of backgrounds, including those protected by the equality laws, enhances decision-making processes and provides for greater accountability.  It is also vital to people’s sense of status and belonging as well as helping to counteract negative attitudes and behaviours that different groups might experience. 

In parallel to the Statement on Key Inequalities in Participation in Public Life in Northern Ireland, the policy position paper sets out the Commission’s priorities and areas for action with regard to participation in public life.

Priority: Improve equality data collection and disaggregation

Action should be taken to address identified gaps in equality data; and ensure that data is sufficiently disaggregated to allow meaningful equality analysis and public policy development:

  • Address identified gaps in equality data across a number of areas of public policy.
  • Ensure that data is sufficiently disaggregated to allow for meaningful equality analysis, to better inform public policy development.



Priority: Increase diversity in government public appointments

We call for action to increase participation of those with disabilities; deliver on gender targets for boards and chairs; and implement a cross-departmental strategic action plan to advance participation more generally.

Action is required to:


  • Establish and promote support measures, and targeted actions to increase the participation in public life of people with disabilities;
  • Ensure early implementation of an action plan to achieve the Executive’s 2016 target for gender equality in board and chair public appointments;
  • Implement the cross-departmental diversity strategic action plan to address under-representation and support participation, including to give effect to the 2014 recommendations of the Commissioner for Public Appointments for Northern Ireland.



Priority: Increase diversity in political representation

There is a need to advance the participation of women and minority ethnic individuals in political life; and advance the participation of women in peace building.

Action is required to:

  • Advance the participation of women, and individuals from minority ethnic groups, in political life

  • Advance the active and meaningful participation of women in peace building and post conflict reconstruction



Overarching area for action: Ensure access to the voting system by those with disabilities

While the Commission will work to encourage prompt action to address the priorities for action, we also encourage action by government, officials and key stakeholders to advance our full range of recommendations, including the following area:


  • Remove barriers across all stages of the electoral process to ensure that people with disabilities can exercise their right to vote.



Overarching area for action: Tackle cross-cutting barriers to active participation

While the Commission will work to encourage prompt action to address the priorities for action, we also encourage action by government, officials and key stakeholders to advance our full range of recommendations, which include:

  • More effectively engage with, and foster the active participation of, people from across the full range of equality categories

  • Address structural barriers which can deter individuals from a range of equality categories from participating in public life

  • Meet the physical access and communication needs of prospective participants

  • Build capacity, overcome barriers and foster a sense of belonging

  • Challenge stereotypes and prejudice


Further information about the Equality Commission’s priorities and recommendations is available in the following publications:


The following short publications updates the evidence base of our 2019 recommendations, taking account of social and public policy developments since then:
Additional information
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< Participation in public life
< Addressing inequality


How have we advised Government on policy issues?

The Commission seeks to shape public policy through a range of channels, including by responding to public consultations.  We are frequently asked to consider and comment on government policy and strategy documents on our areas of expertise.

Read our most recent responses to consultations in the health and social care sector:

< Participation in Public Life Policy Priorities

Participation in Public Life in Northern Ireland

The Equality Commission NI and Commissioner for Public Appointments NI held a workshop at Belfast City Hall to demystify the process of public appointments. The videos below feature some of the speakers and attendees who attended the event and some of the issues that were discussed.

Dr Michael Wardlow, Chief Commissioner, Equality Commission NI


Pat Neeson, Commissioner for Public Appointments, Business & Policy Manager


Kellie Armstrong MLA, NI Assembly


Judena Leslie, Commissioner for Public Appointments NI   Attendees at the workshop

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