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Achieving Change Together - A Black & Minority Ethnic Parliament for NI

Achieving Change Together
Tuesday, January 21, 2014 - 17:00
The Brasserie, NI Assembly, Stormont (Day 1) and The Volunteer Centre, Shaftesbury Square (Day 2)

Collaboration NI will be running a 2 day (21 and 25 January) inward study visit as part of an overall strategy to engage more people from the black and minority ethnic sector in public life in Northern Ireland.


  • Currently Northern Ireland has only one elected ethnic minority representative
  • Westminster - 27 ethnic minority MPs out of a total of 650

A recent survey, which focused on females, by the Northern Ireland Centre for Ethnic Minorities (NICEM) pointed out:

  • the lack of involvement, specifically, of Black and Ethnic Minority women
  • over half of the respondents stated they have the right to vote BUT 72.3 % stated they did not vote in the last election
  • only 2.6 % of respondents are members of a political party
  • 90 % of respondents never considered standing for elections.

What is the proposal?

NICEM is now proposing the establishment of a Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) Parliament which would provide a forum for increased participation by ethnic minority communities in the political life of Northern Ireland. This would increase the opportunities for ethnic minority voices to be heard as well as connecting BME community members to key decision makers in government as well as to service providers. In addition it would increase the confidence of BME community members to speak up; to improve their knowledge of rights and entitlements and to develop their awareness of, and familiarity with, political institutions and processes in Northern Ireland.

The objective

The BME Parliament would intend to recruit around 30 people from a mix of urban and rural areas and representing people of all ages from the BME community. The intention is that
the BME Parliament would focus on 3 key areas: Employment and Learning, Health and Social Development, and Justice.

How will this happen?

To start this process Collaboration NI will be running a 2 day inward study visit as part of an overall strategy to engage more people from the black and minority ethnic sector in public life in Northern Ireland. The aim will be to assist those from an ethnic minority to gain a better understanding of public policy and to provide an insight to the NI Assembly and the All Party Working Group for Ethnic Minorities. It will bring together a range of key figures, from both Ireland and the UK, with a black or ethnic background and who have become involved in public life. The study visit will also share learning with some practical examples from Northern Ireland and beyond of campaigns that have successfully encouraged people to come forward and become engaged in public life. One of the seminar days will be held at the Northern Ireland Assembly and will include a tour of Stormont with input from some of our local politicians.

Who should attend?

This event is aimed at individuals from a black or ethnic minority background and we would be delighted to hear from you.

Perhaps you are already involved in a local community group and would like to find out how you can link your views into the overall strategy for Northern Ireland? Or perhaps you would just like to find out more about getting involved on a personal level?

Places are limited so please complete the booking form attached at the bottom of this page and return to Sarah@co3.bz Tel: 028 9024 5656.

In order to support people to attend the study visit CollaborationNI is pleased to offer financial assistance to cover childcare and travel costs.

Note: CollaborationNI is a partnership programme between CO3 (Chief Officer’s Third Sector), NICVA (Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action) and Stellar Leadership, commissioned by Building Change Trust. CollaborationNI provides practical support and resources across the whole spectrum of collaborative working to voluntary and community sector organisations. As part of this support CollaborationNI has been assisting organisations with study visits in order to share learning of experience already present in the sector.

Study Visit Programme

Day 1 - Tuesday, 21 January 2014, The Brasserie, NI Assembly, Stormont

5pm Registration and light refreshments
5.15pm Introductions, Expectations, Learning Objectives
5.25pm All Party Working Group for Black and Ethnic Minorities
Chair, Colum Eastwood
5.30pm The Black and Ethnic Minority Parliament – Elizabeth Nelson, NICEM
5.45pm Engaging with your NI Assembly representatives. Roisin Fleetham, Engagement and Outreach in the NI Assembly.
6.15pm Tour of the Stormont Building
6.45pm Finish

Day 2 - Saturday, 25 January 2014, The Volunteer Centre, Shaftesbury Square, Belfast

10.00am Welcome
10.10am - 10.30pm The Black and Ethnic Minority Parliament Proposal
10.30am - 12.00pm Age Sector Platform was established in 2000 in direct response to devolution and the equality and human rights agenda. It aimed to build a collective voice regionally and locally for older people and their organisations. Delegates from Age Sector platform will share with us the experience of building the Pensioners Parliament with personal reflections from individual participants on why they got involved.
11.00am - 12.00pm Question Time
12.30pm - 1.30pm Lunch
1.30pm – 2.45pm A panel of speakers will give their own personal reflections on why they became active in community and political life and share some of their learning.


Anna Lo, MLA

Anna Lo

Anna Manwah Lo MBE is an Alliance Party politician in Northern Ireland. Born in Hong Kong, of Cantonese-Chinese ethnicity, Anna was elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly for South Belfast in the 2007 assembly election. She was the first ethnic minority politician elected at a national level in Northern Ireland, and the first politician born in East Asia elected to any legislative body in the United Kingdom. Anna is also a social worker and former chairperson of the Northern Ireland Chinese Welfare Association. Anna has resided in Northern Ireland for more than 30 years.

Rotimi Adebari

Rotimi Adebari

Rotimi Adebari is a Nigerian-born Irish politician. He was elected as the first black mayor in Ireland. A convert from Islam to Christianity, he fled Nigeria in 2000, and gained residency because his third child was born in Ireland. He and his family settled in County Laois. In 2004, he was elected as a town councilor in local elections. In June 2007 he was elected as mayor of Portlaoise Town Council. In the 2009 local elections he was re-elected to the town council and also to Laois County Council for the Portlaoise electoral area.
Rotimi completed his master's degree in intercultural studies at Dublin City University and has set up his own consultancy called Optimum Point Consultancy. He is also a regular presenter on Midlands 103 radio station.

Simon Woolley - TBC

Simon Woolley

Simon is a founder of Operation Black Vote. He has helped guide the project from an idea into an influential national organisation. He is also a Commissioner serving on the Equality and Human Rights Commission, and visiting lecturer at Nottingham University. He and his organisation has been given a number of awards including London's most influential Londoners, Grassroots powerlist, Channel 4 Community awards, and several local community awards. Simon writes and comments regularly for the national and Black media.

2.45pm – 3.15pm Question time: Participants will have an opportunity to put questions to a panel and engage in a debate on how individuals can be more effective in engaging with the devolved government.
3.15pm - 3.30pm Tea/coffee break
3.30pm - 4.00pm Review of study visit
4.00pm Next steps – what else would help?
4.15pm Close

When: 21st January 2014 at 5pm and 25th January 2014 at 10am
Location: CO3 Offices, 34 Shaftesbury Square, Belfast
Contact: Tel. 028 9024 5356 or email: sarah@co3.bz