Future Politics 2023 Report published

20 May 2024 - by Anna Mercer

Institutional infrastructure, relationships and engagement: new report makes recommendations for more effective and sustainable government for Northern Ireland

Future Politics, a partnership between the John and Pat Hume Foundation and political consultancy Stratagem, has published a new report about how Northern Ireland moves towards better planning, decision making and delivery in government.

The report reflects the proceedings of a daylong conference hosted by Ulster University in November which brought together over 100 delegates from the political and policy community to discuss how to improve the current political system.

The conference heard from keynote speaker, the now First Minister of Scotland, John Swinney MSP, who shared his insights into the approach taken by the Scottish Government focusing on reform, better outcomes and delivery.

Anna Mercer, Deputy Director of Stratagem, said:

“With the first 100 days of the newly restored institutions behind us, and with the scale of challenges facing our politicians, it is essential that we understand and seek to address the logjams in the system which are created by the architecture of the institutions. 

“The limitations on an annual budget and lack of mechanism to enable cross-departmental budgeting curbs the potential for our politicians to deliver on much-needed transformation of public services.  

“Put simply, our politicians are being asked to do more with less and without the means to do so. In fact, the system often disincentivises good decision making.

“Reflecting what we heard at the conference and the many conversations with organisations, policy makers and politicians, the report contains several recommendations including changing the siloed structure of the Executive departments.”

“It is important that we create space to reflect on how our institutions and broader policy making community are functioning – not just when the Executive is down, but critically, when it is functioning.”

Tim Attwood of the John and Pat Hume Foundation said:

“John Hume always believed that politics was underpinned by relationships and trust. Given the fact that the institutions have been down for five out of the past eight years, compounded by two years remote working, relationships haven’t had the space to develop as much as they should have.

“Politicians and policy makers need to be supported to improve outcomes for the people they represent. This requires commitment from both the UK and Irish Government to work alongside our leaders, navigating the complexities of a society which is still coming to terms with its past.

“This report harnesses the insights, expertise of those across civic society, government and the political parties, reflecting the shared belief that collaboration is key to more effective and sustainable government.”

Full report is available here.