The Citizens’ Assembly for Northern Ireland is a democratic innovation that puts people at the heart of decision-making


The Citizens’ Assembly for Northern Ireland is a democratic innovation that puts people at the heart of decision-making on an important issue. The first Citizens’ Assembly  consisted of 77 citizens, selected to be broadly representative of Northern Ireland’s population. It met over two weekends in Autumn 2018. The Citizens’ Assembly considered what the public’s aspirations are for a social care system fit for the future. It will give particular consideration to the respective roles played by the health service, communities and individuals.

As well as helping to break the deadlock around the issue of social care, it is intended that the Citizens’ Assembly pilot a model of deliberative engagement that may be adopted by the Northern Ireland Executive, the Northern Ireland Assembly and/or the Northern Ireland Office, to address further contested issues.

For more information on the workings of the Citizens’ Assembly, including its recommendations for reform of social care for older people, visit our resource area

What is a Citizens’ Assembly?

A citizens’ assembly is a group of people who are brought together to discuss an issue or issues, and reach a conclusion about what they think should happen. Those who take part are chosen to reflect the wider population – in terms of demographics (e.g. age, gender, ethnicity, social class) and sometimes relevant attitudes (e.g. preferences for a small or large state).

Citizens’ assemblies give members of the public the time and opportunity to learn about and discuss a topic, before reaching conclusions. Assembly members are asked to make trade-offs and arrive at workable recommendations.

Citizens’ assemblies, and other similar methods, have been used in the UK and other countries – including Australia, Canada and the United States – to tackle a range of complex issues. A citizens’ assembly has recently taken place in the Republic of Ireland – established by the Irish parliament – to address a number of important legal and policy issues facing Irish society. These have included equal marriage, abortion and the opportunities and challenges of an ageing population.

Who’s Involved?


The development of the Citizens’ Assembly for Northern Ireland is being led by Involve and is funded by Building Change Trust, Open Society FoundationsCommunity Foundation for Northern Ireland, and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation.