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A new series of talks about the future

The third series of Forward Together podcasts from Holywell Trust launches today. As with the previous series, the focus is on how Northern Ireland can progress and heal our divided society.

In these latest podcasts, we look at some of the ideas that have emerged from previous interviews – all worked together in the book, Lessons from Problems and Unexplained Peace. Unfortunately, recent events make these ideas even more relevant for urgent consideration.

Suggestions discussed further in the latest podcasts include how to relieve tension and improve relationships in interface areas. how we can make our society more common and integrated; how to address the role and influence of paramilitaries; and the role citizens assemblies can play in strengthening relationships within the community division and in achieving agreed outcomes for our most difficult challenges.

Much of the conversation revolved around a few key issues that may not be obvious in terms of how to deal with the tensions in our society. One of them is the need to improve engagement in schools to get students excited about learning, with the result that school leavers have the skills employers need and the economic investment and wealth creation in our society can promote. This, in turn, can help combat the disadvantage and social alienation that may lead to the recent unrest.

The first interview is with Simon Hoare MP, Chair of the House of Commons Northern Ireland Select Committee and Conservative MP for North Dorset. Simon argues that the key challenge in Northern Ireland is finding ways to develop trust between political parties and communities. To do this, he believes that the main parties need to find some core strategies and objectives that they can agree on and draw upon in their approach to governance.

Simon is skeptical of the role of citizens’ assemblies and believes it undermines the role of elected and representative democracy, which he believes must be at the center of citizen engagement.

Simon’s conversation can be heard here.

Paul Gosling is editor of Lessons from the Troubles and an Unsettled Peace, author of A New Ireland and The Fall of the Ethical Bank, and co-author of Abuse of Trust, the story of a child abuse scandal in Leicestershire. He works with Holywell Trust charities for peace and reconciliation projects and is Parliamentary Assistant to Sinead McLaughlin MLA, the SDLP’s economic spokesman.

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