The Northern Ireland Assembly supported a series of community outreach events in Newry and Cookstown which brought MLAs and local community and voluntary groups together.
Organised in partnership with the Confederation of Community Groups and the Rural Community Network, the events were designed to help the community and voluntary sector work more effectively with the Assembly.
These events follow on from a similar event held in the North West in January and included workshops, simulated Committee meetings and presentations—all aimed at demystifying how the Assembly works.
Some of the event's top tips included how to raise issues with Committees and how to prepare for giving evidence to Committees. There was also an opportunity for attendees to quiz MLAs during panel discussions which saw local groups raise issues that concern them.
The events provided time for groups to chat and network with other voluntary and community organisations, MLAs and Assembly officials.
The programme is part of the Assembly’s continuing commitment to reaching out to the community and voluntary sector.
Mickey Brady MLA attended the event in Ballybot House in Newry where he heard from a range of groups who were keen to learn how to better engage with the Assembly:
Robin Swann MLA, who attended the event in Cookstown, believes that these events provide a great opportunity to pose questions to MLAs and enables the public to understand what the position of each of the MLAs and Parties is in relation to those issues.
Patsy McGlone MLA believes it is very important that the Assembly is seen to be engaging with the wider community and encourages those who have an issue to get in touch with their local MLA.
We interviewed some of the people that attended the Get Ivolved conference in Cookstown and asked them why it was important that the Assembly participated in this type of event and what they learned from it.
Brigid Scullion, from the Cookstown Rural Community Transport, gained an insight into how the Assembly actually works; Fergal O’Donnell, from the Rural Community Network feels that the Assembly needs to be more proactive in reaching out to those in the rural communities; Hugh McCloy from Save the Mid campaign would encourage people to get in touch with Assembly Committees and Ursula Marshall feels that it's important that MLAs understand who their constituents are.