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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
draft policy recommendations

What you need to know

Consultation responses


Participation in public life - draft policy recommendations

Public Life logoParticipation 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 can participate in political life (e.g. political representatives; members of political fora).

This involvement can be at various levels including community (such as membership of a community organisation or school board of governors); regional (e.g. election as a local councillor) and national (e.g. election as an MP).

Diversity in public life and ensuring the participation of people from all types of backgrounds, including those protected by the equality laws, enhances the decision-making processes. It provides for greater accountability along with having more representative groups of people influencing and shaping the decisions that affect all our daily lives.

In parallel to the Statement of Key Inequalities in Participation in Public Life in Northern Ireland, we have developed draft policy recommendations for action to tackle the identified key inequalities and wider issues:

Ensure equality data collection and disaggregation

Action is required to:
  • Address identified gaps in key equality data gaps 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.

Tackle overarching barriers to active participation

Action is required to:
  • 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 groups from participating in public life;
  • Meet the physical access and communication needs of prospective participants;
  • Build capacity and overcome perceived barriers;
  • Challenge stereotypes and prejudice


Government Public Appointments

Action is required to:
  • Establish and promote support measures, to facilitate the participation in public life of people with disabilities;
  • Ensure early implementation of an action plan to achieve the Executive’s target for gender equality in board and chair public appointments;
  • Implement a cross-departmental strategy to address under-representation and support participation, including to implement the 2014 recommendations of the Commissioner for Public Appointments for Northern Ireland.

Elected representatives

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.


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

Programme for Government: our priorities and recommendations

The Equality Commission has set out its recommendations in relation to the next Programme for Government and Budget of the NI Executive. These include actions relating to participation in public life and decision making, namely to:
  • increase the participation of women in political/public life and decision making, including peacebuilding
  • promote the participation of other under-represented Section 75 groups in public life, including people with disabilities, lesbian, gay and bisexual people; older people, and minority ethnic communities

- Download our Public/Political Life PfG priorities and recommendations (pdf, 1 page, 244kb)
- Also see our key point briefing (pdf) or recommendations in full (pdf, 2016)
- Further information is available on the Programme for Government section of our website

Attitudes related to diversity in public life

The Commission’sEquality Awareness Survey(2016) measured social attitudes towards specific equality groups; perceptions and experiences of unfair treatment; and awareness of a range of equality related matters amongst the general public in Northern Ireland.

This survey found that attitudes towards different equality groups were much more positive than in previous years, in particular negative attitudes towards Travellers, Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual people and trans people reduced.

However despite the reductions there are some prejudices which are apparently harder to change:


  • The five equality groups most likely to be subject to negative attitudes were those associated with minority ethnic and /or newcomer status
  • All equality groups experienced increased negative attitudes towards them as the social distance to them decreased, from work colleague, to neighbour, to being married to a close relative
  • People were most “uncomfortable” towards having a Traveller, a Roma person, a Transgender person, a member of a minority ethnic group, and a person aged under 25 as a First Minister of Northern Ireland
  • Two thirds of respondents to the survey thought there were no circumstances in which prejudice was “acceptable”.

Read more about the Equality Awareness Survey findings

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:

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