IntroductionDemocratic Dialogue was set up in 1995, in the wake of the paramilitary ceasefires, as a think tank geared to stimulating fresh approaches to the political problems of Northern Ireland, as well as addressing long-neglected economic, social and cultural questions. DD benefited greatly from the experience of the independent Opsahl Commission of 1992-93, which demonstrated an untapped appetite in Northern Ireland for broader political participation and a willingness to engage with issues in a rational way.
Between its establishment and the Belfast agreement, DD generated eight substantial policy reports, wrote a large number of published and commissioned policy papers. This effectively completed an agenda determined at a well-attended launch conference in 1995.
In the new context, DD then worked to help flesh out the institutions signalled by the accord, as the parties elaborated the new government structures internal to the region, the new north-south institutions in Ireland and the new relationships across the islands of Britain and Ireland. It was at the heart of the work on the Civic Forum, and supported civil-society participation in the new dispensation. It mixed stimulating outside speakers with round-table debates, to generate the fresh thinking and publications such challenges as these require. It was available to execute commissions - it had previously done work for the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action and the Confederation of British Industry in the region. And it developed a unique expertise in Ireland in the arena of public involvement in policy formation, especially in the use of citizens' juries.
DD was a charity which was generously funded by the Rowntree trusts and others. It was directed by Robin Wilson, former editor of Fortnight magazine, and its management committee members were prominent in public life in Northern Ireland. DD ceased operation in 2008(?).
Robin Wilson went on to help establish Platform for Change in 2009.
The above link provides the full text of the reports published by Democratic Dialogue. The reports are reproduced at the CAIN site with the permission of the publishers.
The above link provides the full text of discussion papers and briefing papers published by Democratic Dialogue. The papers are reproduced at the CAIN site with the permission of the publishers.
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