Newcastle Co. Down, at the foot of the Mourne mountains was the recent venue for the Northern Ireland Assembly’s Community Connect “Get involved – South Down” event. The event which took place on Friday 3rd October 2014 saw more than 50 people representing over 25 local community and voluntary groups, gather together to learn more about the Northern Ireland Assembly and meet their local MLAs.

The event included “speed networking” sessions which allowed community groups and individuals to get round the table with their constituency MLAs and put across their views on local issues and voice their concerns.

Training workshops and presentations on the work of the Assembly provided advice on how groups can give evidence to Assembly Committees and contribute effectively to Committee inquiries.

We spoke to some of the people attending the event to find out what they thought. Harry Hughes of The Cabbage Patchers told us that until he attended the event, he didn’t know that he could have a say on the way health and wellbeing care was delivered. Pat Ward, from Safe and Well, told us that this kind of engagement was “the way forward for everyone”, and Nicholas McCrickard of County Down Rural Community Network told us how the event has helped him to get his group’s concerns across to local MLAs during the speed networking session.

You can hear more of what they had to say here.

We also spoke to the local MLAs who took part in the event. 

We also spoke to the local MLAs who took part in the event. Caitríona Ruane MLA emphasised the importance of the community sector knowing how the Assembly works, so that they can use the Assembly effectively. Karen McKevitt MLA told us that events like this are important as MLAs can take groups’ concerns back to the Committees they sit on. John McCallister MLA explained how these events give the public and community groups the chance to interact with MLAs and put forward the issues that affect each and every one of us, and Seán Rogers MLA told us how he felt that events like this allowed MLAs to stay connected at a local level, giving them a real opportunity to help their constituents. 

You can listen to the full interviews with our MLAs here.

To find out more about the work of Assembly Community Connect please visit our webpage

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