This is part of the International Seminar on Wellbeing in Northern Ireland, convened by Carnegie Council and the Carnegie UK Trust.
AIDEEN McGINLEY: Hello, everybody.
The three previous speakers who have set the scene: What I took from it actually was that they were looking at the challenges. They also gave out a lot of hope and optimism, that there's nothing that we can't do. I think that's what this session is about, the Northern Ireland that we want, and that was the question posed: What is that?
Without further ado—and I'll say a few things at the end—I'm delighted to welcome to the stage: We do have an economist with a heart here that's beating. I know it, I've seen it in action, and he does have a social conscience. So I'm delighted to welcome Neil Gibson, who will be well-known in Northern Ireland, but is also head of—your actual title at Ernst & Young is the main economic advisor for the island of Ireland.
We also have Katrina Godfrey. I want to congratulate her. She has very newly become a permanent secretary in the Department of Infrastructure in Northern Ireland. She also was the authoress, or architect or whatever we want to call it, of what we heard earlier from the other contributors to the fact that we do have a Programme for Government that is outcomes-based. People often forget the people behind the scenes who are the ones who actually push the policy process and encourage ministers and other people in the system to allow these things to happen, and Katrina was very much an architect and someone behind the scenes there to make sure that we've got a Programme for Government that is as it is.
Then, last but not least by any means, and a particular thank-you: Jennifer Wallace, who is literally now recognized globally for her expertise in wellbeing, had a burst appendix. These things you cannot warrant for, and I know that we send our best wishes to her for a speedy recovery, and I know that she's really gutted not to be here, but she'll be watching the podcast and making sure that we've all covered everything she told us to say. Lucy and Allie are smiling there.
We're thrilled that Deirdre Garvey, who very kindly stepped in at Martyn's bequest, is here because Deirdre also has an outside view and will be giving us her opinions at the end of this panel. She works in an Ireland-based organization called The Wheel, which caters to the community and voluntary sector in the south of Ireland and has worked very closely with Carnegie.
So it shows the breadth of the Carnegie work on the island of Ireland. Indeed, the fact that we're a Trust that actually has the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom and Ireland, as one of the very few philanthropic organizations that does, and that shared learning also brings a really important perspective to this.
Without further ado, I'm going to ask them to share their reflections on the Northern Ireland that we would want.
NEIL GIBSON: Thank you. It's an absolute privilege and a pleasure to be here.
As Aideen said, I'm Neil Gibson. I'm the chief economist for EY (Ernst & Young) in the island of Ireland. I'm formerly a professor of economic policy at the University of Ulster—Ulster University as it is now—when we were involved in the Roundtable, which was a huge privilege for me to be involved in, not least because I learned a huge amount.
Rolf made a great point about Larry Summers' article. Economists don't tend to do a huge amount of listening. I've spent a lot of time building forecast models, more models than you could possibly ever wish to see in your life, and not enough listening. The process of the Roundtable was fantastic for me, to hear and think a little bit differently about the way I go about my business.
Anyway, we have a tagline, as corporates tend to do, and ours is "Building a Better Working World." For some in the firm that's a challenge to get your head around and think what that means, but it's to their credit that they still wanted me to be involved and wanted me to be here because we should be here.
We're a huge employer on the island, we're working for most of the large corporates, and we're trying to make money, and that's quite important for the reasons I'm going to talk about now when we talk about the economy that we want going forward.
It's also a great privilege to be talking about the opportunities going forward because normally economists are wheeled out to tell you just how big the problem is and how much worse it's going to get. So it's a great honor to have that opportunity today.
I think there are only a couple of remarks I'd really want to make to set the scene. The first one is that we have a huge amount of potential in Northern Ireland. There is much to be hugely proud of, not least the list of firms that we heard coming over to Northern Ireland. They don't come there out of any deference, pity, or coming to try to help or boost the economy; they come because it's a good business decision to come.
It's a fantastic quality of life. Northern Ireland tops so many of the quality-of-life indicator measures that there are. It's important to recognize that we have a very privileged funding position where we sit in Northern Ireland, but that does allow us to afford an excellent education and health care system. Yes, they have problems and challenges, but compared to many places in the world it is still hugely impressive.
Those things don't happen by accident. It would surprise most to know we have a lower unemployment rate than the UK average, a lower unemployment rate than Ireland.
We have many economic problems. You've heard of some of them earlier on in the day, and I'm not going to reiterate those because we're trying to look forward.
So we've got a platform to build on. The Northern Ireland that is developed in the future should be true to those things that make it unique and special, the things that have made it the strong performer in many ways that it is. Yes, we've very many challenges to face, but there's a platform there to build from, and that's what takes us to the wellbeing work and the Programme for Government that we have. That's not a political document, which is a huge achievement in a place like Northern Ireland. It's not politicized. There's not a party about to come into power and take it down and say: "That's not my idea. I want something different." There is a genuine consensus that that is roughly the direction that we'd like to head in.
Yes, there are challenges about the outcome framework, and there are many people angsting over whether it's quite the right indicator or whether it's exactly the right measure, but we have a document and a platform that roughly sets out where we want to get to. Rolf made that point earlier. That's the first and most important part of the conversation about the economy that we want going forward, the economy that we want—not the economy that I want, not the economy that many policymakers want, but are we sure we're listening to all of our citizens?
Something that came out of not just the Roundtable for me but certainly is coming out of the consultations that went in through the crafting of the Programme for Government is hearing from the voices of the people who typically don't turn up. You run a public event; how do you get the people to come who don't? Where's the silent voice in a lot of this about the things that people are uncomfortable with? If you don't listen to those things, you will get votes, and I don't need to reference them. You know the votes that surprised us.
It's to my eternal shame that as an economist I didn't think the Brexit vote was going to go the way that it did, and that has bothered me ever since and tells me I didn't read the right indicators. It tells me that I wasn't paying enough attention to some of the statistics, and if I'd spent a bit of time with the real wages chart or if I'd spent some time with people's perceptions of their quality of public services, I might have had a better understanding.
I have to be a better economist. I have to do better. If we're going to deliver a better economy, we're all going to have to do better, and that includes my profession.
So we've got to think about are we sure that we've got the right framework of what the things are that matter to people. That's why I love the Wellbeing framework. I love the fact that we bring democratic outcomes, social outcomes, economic outcomes, and environmental outcomes all together and really think about what we want and what the trade-offs might be between some of those choices.
It's extremely important that the private sector plays its part. Many of us in the room today, many of the people who listen to this, will have some direct or indirect funding from the public sector. All of the great government officials that we have, the politicians, we all need that income from somebody generating the revenue. The money has to be redistributed. While sometimes I felt like a sort of grumpy taxpayer at the Roundtable occasionally, it was important to keep that on the table, that we have to generate. If we're relying on philanthropy, if we're relying on taxes to be generated, then we're going to have to have a vibrant economy to underpin the things that we want to do.
Not everything in the frameworks cost money, but many of them do, and the health outcomes and the education outcomes that we want will require us to have a dynamic and successful economy. They will need us to continue the great success that Invest NI has had, it will continue to nurture the small businesses that we have, and continue to have big firms like the one I work for continuing to generate significant revenue and continue to help their clients to do so.
A really interesting part of the story for me is where does the generation of income come. We have to make sure that as we craft a new vision of wellbeing we don't lose sight of the importance of the ability to make profit, to make an economic success of a business, so that we have the money to redistribute.
I always tell the story that the reason I became an economist was a very famous speech given by a political leader back when I was only eight or nine, who said in a speech—and you'll know who I'm referring to—"Before you ask me to write a check for this problem, ask yourself whose money it is." That never left me from a very young age. Why don't we just print more money? I didn't think I would live through that, but I did. But anyway, a little quantitative joke there. I don't normally get that in. But it was a fascination to me: How do we make the choices, how do we decide what matters, and how are we going to do that if we don't listen to the people?
A great experience for me working in the Northwest, Derry/Londonderry in the city culture bid, with Aideen and Gavin and with many others, was hugely inspiring to me because I had to change the language of what I talked about to try to persuade people why we needed some of the big professional services firms coming to that city to generate the taxes for all the other things that we wanted to do to make that place special.
The other point about opportunity and going forward that I think I must tie into this is, yes, we need a vibrant economy. That's one of the things that I think should be a bedrock of what we're aspiring to deliver in Northern Ireland. We shouldn't lose sight of it. The private sector is going to have to play its part with the public sector, with the voluntary sector, the third sector, and with the public.
We've got to stay close to our public. People have spent many a day crafting policy solutions. I have spent a lot of time worrying about things like economic inactivity or leaving young people behind with no formal skills, which still happens, sadly, too much in Northern Ireland. I've realized that I've often been in rooms with experts and officials trying to craft a policy solution for a life I have never lived. I don't understand what it's like. I don't understand the emotional challenges. We have to have more people in the room thinking and crafting these solutions—and yes, that includes the people who are there advocating for the need to have a fast-growing, successful, and dynamic economy.
To wrap up, what I wanted to say is if we're going to have a successful economy, then everyone is going to have to play their part. We're going to struggle to pick winners, although we will try. We'll try to say it's going to be digital, it's going to be life sciences, it's going to be—we try to pick winners. And that won't work. There will be sectors we can't even imagine today. There will be successful businesses in areas we thought were long since defunct or no longer the sorts of industries that we would have in somewhere like Northern Ireland.
So we've got to look more at the individual. And for those people that we're looking to support and to help with some of the big, big challenges—mental health is one, a huge issue—we're going to have to make sure that we have a way in which we can get a proper social partnership in which we all play a part in trying to bring people into the economy so that they can play their part, and we have to bring the taxpayers, many of whom remain skeptical about how some of the money is redistributed, closer to understanding why those safety nets and help-ups need to be there and why we need a proper social and economic fabric.
I think that gives me my last remark, which is the opportunity is there for a fantastic Northern Ireland. I would argue it's already a fantastic place. But there's also an absolute requirement to put wellbeing at the heart of what we do.
It's budget season at the moment—Irish budget today, UK budget coming shortly—and look at the papers tomorrow and they will be full of very laudable and very cleverly worked-out calculators of who's a euro or a pound better off or a dollar better off. Sometimes I think that's the wrong lens to look at it. Is the society or is the economy that we live in better? And that may not mean every one individual is going to be three euros or four dollars better off. If we look at our aging demographics, if we look at our longevity and life and health care issues, if we look at some of the growing challenges around things like mental health or physical things such as obesity, we simply will not be able to continue in the way that we're going without having some—climate change is another one.
If you don't put those frameworks at the heart of what you're going to do, we simply won't be able to keep up. The taxpayer won't. We're going to have to have a big, modern, grown-up conversation about the tax that we want to pay, and we have no framework for that conversation yet. Having a Programme for Government that allows us to have difficult conversations about how we're going to fund the Health Service, how we're going to fund the way to the outcomes that we want, is the sort of modern conversation that I want to have.
The Roundtable is a great place to discuss. We heard it this morning. There's not enough of that going on. You have to be learning all the time.
It has been a great privilege for me to learn as part of it, and I think keeping that perspective on the sort of economy we want going forward requires a lot of listening and less talking—not easy for me to do—but it also requires us because the demographics, the social change, the climate change tells us that without that kind of holistic approach we'd be in a much more difficult place than we are today. So it's a necessity to allow us to deliver the sort of Northern Ireland that we aspire to. I hope we get there and I hope that myself and my organization will be able to play its part.
Thank you very much.
KATRINA GODFREY: Thank you, Neil and Aideen.
I'd like to add my words of thanks to Carnegie Trust and the Carnegie Council for the opportunity to be here and to be debating these issues today.
As Aideen has explained, my name is Katrina Godfrey. Until about just over a month ago I had the privilege of leading the development of the outcomes-based Programme for Government in Northern Ireland. I've recently moved to take on a new set of responsibilities at the Department for Infrastructure, but the experience of leading a wellbeing-focused Programme for Government I think is one that will stay with me and is already shaping how I take on my current role.
You've heard a lot about why we ended up with a framework that focuses very firmly on wellbeing and that took a long-term strategic view. There's no need for me to rehash that. But what I will say is it was remarkable how easy and how possible it was for so many people to coalesce around a strategic view that took the longer term and that focused on what people told us mattered most to them.
Really, I suppose, the other thing it forced us to do was to realize that all of the things we said were really, really important to us, we haven't actually managed to improve over the last couple of decades in the way we wanted to see them improve. So, when Neil talked about economic inactivity, we look at some of the environmental and some of the health indicators, and they simply weren't shifting in the way that we knew people wanted them to do. That really required us to take a new approach.
But this session is about opportunity. It's about looking forward. If there is anything I've learned in my two years leading this piece of work on behalf of the government in Northern Ireland, it has been the importance of leadership. Actually, my role is as a senior leader in our public service, and my primary responsibility, I think I realize now, is not to put processes in place, not to find evidence, but actually to build capacity, to build the capacity of the department I now lead and to build the capacity of our system.
For me, four areas are absolutely critical to maximizing the opportunities of a wellbeing framework. Some of them have already been referred to this afternoon. The first one is collaboration. We can't solve many of the challenges we and so many other societies face by working in silos. We know intuitively that health outcomes are determined not by what happens in hospitals and health institutions but by what happens in society, in communities, in families, and in schools.
So, how do we work together to make sure that the focus is on the outcomes we're trying to achieve and not a narrow set of responsibilities that we have? How do we build partnerships? How do we even understand what affects what? And how do we know we're making a difference?
That takes me to the second of my four areas. It's about impact. Any of us who work in public service will tend to have laudable aims and will tend to know what it is we want to achieve. We have been less good at holding ourselves to account for the impact, at really asking ourselves: "How do we know did that work? How do we know is anybody better off as a result of the policy, the program, the intervention that I have been responsible for leading?" That's one of the other changes that a focus on outcomes has brought for us, that sense of really testing ourselves with the question "Is anybody better off as a result of the thing I've spent public money on, invested time in, and put in place?"
The third thing—and this speaks very much to one of the points that Neil mentioned earlier—is the intelligent use of evidence. We are coming down like many governments with data. We are really good at measuring stuff, but I'm not so sure we're good at measuring the stuff that really matters. In Northern Ireland we produce something like over 250 different official statistics publications every year, but actually we've lost in many areas the skill of analyzing them to see what they're actually telling us. What are they telling us about real lived experiences of public services and how they impact on people?
Actually, we've started just to understand that evidence takes many different forms, that evidence isn't just data, statistics, and research, it's also the lived experiences of people who use, who care about, or who deliver public services. So one of the areas of capacity that I need to build and the people that I lead is the ability really to understand the evidence in its fullest and widest sense.
That takes me to the fourth area that seems from my experience of this work really important, and it's the area of inclusivity. It's really that sense of being much more inclusive in how we design and how we deliver policies and programs. The Roundtable has been a metaphor for today. Who's at the table? Who's involved? How do we involve people right at the outset, and how do we keep them involved? So, co-design and co-production are very commonly heard words at the moment, but actually those aren't set pieces, they're not one-offs. They're conversations that need to continue so that we know whether what we're trying to achieve is doing what we thought it was going to be doing.
In summing up and in looking at opportunities, I guess I'm saying my leadership challenge is to really grow and change our public services in Northern Ireland so that those four characteristics that I've mentioned become the norm in how we do our business, not the exception that they too frequently are. For me, that's how we grow opportunity, and it's also how we'll grow wellbeing for all.
DEIRDRE GARVEY: Hi, good afternoon. I'm the last speaker of the day. I'm the joker in the pack because I'm in a panel talking about the Northern Ireland that we want and I don't live in Northern Ireland. I'm not going to talk about work that was done in Northern Ireland—but, heigh ho, stay with me for the journey, and I hope by the time [I finish speaking] we'll get to the end of it.
My name is Deirdre Garvey. I'm CEO of The Wheel, which is the national association for community, voluntary, charity organizations, civil society, non-profit—a variety of different names, I guess—and we might use the word "non-profit." Because of the country that we're in that'll be the term that will be used here. For those of you who are familiar with Northern Ireland, our sister organization in the North of Ireland would be the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action (NICVA).
So, having put me in a box and pigeonholed me, what I am here to do is to share a little bit of the relevant learnings that we have found with our work with Martyn and John and the Carnegie UK Trust, and with Jen particularly, who isn't here.
For the past five years, we have been engaging in a listening exercise, listening to people. The bottom root of it is obviously "changing minds, changing lives"—it is the wellbeing remit of the Carnegie UK Trust—but it is about participation and what people want and how to listen to people and what they're saying and what that means.
We have an architecture in Ireland as local government around wellbeing. We have written wellbeing planning into our non-profit organizations and umbrellas at local level. So we have a mechanism, we have a series of processes. We haven't put a significant amount of money into that process, so it's very interesting for me to take the learnings from this and actually bring them back to that process at local level back in the Republic.
We haven't quite understood how to engage that local level and the wellbeing plans that are being created with the national agenda and the national Programme for Government. So we're ahead and we're behind in different ways, and that's what makes occasions like this actually productive and very enriching, so thank you very much for the opportunity. For the last five years we've been engaging in a deliberative dialogue, conversations, asking people to consider basically what is shaping our future and what is expected by citizens and what is expected of citizens.
I use the word "citizen" there in a people context as opposed to a legal context, so people connected with the Republic of Ireland and who live there and those who also don't live there including some of these conversations were in prisons. So we expand all the socioeconomic cycle and the life cycle.
It was very interesting. When you get people together and give them those conversations in safe places and repeated conversations, the conversations did distill upward into let's call them the "grand challenges of our time"—the climate change and global warming, the persistence of poverty, the growing inequality between the so-called "developed" countries, the migration crisis, the pending energy crisis; and I guess the changing nature of the media and the powerful, and indeed the unaccountable, forces shaping our opinions on things; and indeed the power of the commercial markets in our lives.
We're talking about opportunities here, but these are the things that came up in these grand themes. And participation of people in public decision-making was a key identified theme that was central to not just solving the local issues but also feeding into these grand challenges.
What was found, I guess, is a conclusion—and this work is still ongoing—that we need to basically involve people more in participative democratic processes and in participative rather than transactional market processes. Basically, how to do that then became the next question. When we talk about participative market processes, you do come across questions like, "how much growth is enough?" and "how do we decide that?" and "how do we deliberate that?" and "what does that mean in terms of regulation or intervention in the market forces that do shape our lives, particularly in the Republic of Ireland as very vulnerable to the global markets that come through Ireland?"
What was also very interesting was that process of engaging in deliberative dialogue changes people and it does make people different. I guess what it boils down to is that the engagement—if we're really going to listen to people and if we're really going to participate people in determining the "why" and the "where to" and the goal—then we need to get away from the adversarial type of politics and into a more appreciative alternative, so that the search for the truth is actually followed by a number of people. So it was very interesting to hear that, despite the challenges that the Northern Ireland cultural identities and communities have, this wasn't a political process getting to the concept of community planning and wellbeing. So, it is very interesting that there is a truth there, if there is an appropriate process to go there.
We have two really solid examples of how the public discourse in Ireland has changed significantly in the Republic of Ireland. Two recent referendums in the last five years were instigated by civil society engaging in persuading government to run citizens' assemblies and a constitutional convention, a deliberative democratic process that ultimately did provide political cover for the politicians.
We also know of examples of citizens' juries in the local authority level in Galway, whereby randomly citizens picked were engaging about improving public services locally. The participants really were very clear, that the politics and the commerce in the country have to support people to participate in decision making across all of these realms, it has to support people to be free from domination and exploitation by others, and it has to be aimed at securing a sustainable future for ourselves and our children on this Mother Earth that we all have.
It made some recommendations that are relevant for the discourse here. The participants really very strongly felt that what we really need to do to address this distrust and mistrust and gap and disrespect and division is that we have to make deliberative decision-making processes central to our democratic and our commercial worlds. We used to have a structure called "social partnership" in our country. It has its flaws, but it was a discourse and a dialogue and a space for ongoing dialogue. We've learned things since then—and we can learn things I think from the North of Ireland, too—but that is an absolutely critical must both in the commercial and in the democratic worlds.
We have to develop and nurture a sense of people in our country as active citizens rather than passive consumers or electors. We are not consumers or customers. We are citizens in our relationship with public services and public engagement with the state. We have to invest in civil society voice and advocacy to strengthen associational life. We have to understand citizenship in today's world as being global. It's not national in nature, or even regional in nature. Everything is connected with these global trends and global problems.
Finally, participants in the peoples' conversation felt that the most important thing is to ensure that all people have the material means to basically participate to a standard that the people in this room would regard as acceptable in the 21st century. While poverty and gross inequality exist in the midst of global plenty, we can't really claim to have a genuine participatory democracy, and we need to end and to prioritize the ending of world poverty as part of this engagement as global citizens.
As I finish up, I want to offer a framework—well, it's not me offering it—but to remind us of a framework, because we've spoken about a framework of wellbeing. The themes of the Carnegie UK Trust's works on the citizens'/peoples' conversation project are linked in terms of putting people at the center of the "what" and the life and what kind of society we want.
The Sustainable Development Goals are a framework that I believe is a framework that unites the Republic of Ireland and the North of Ireland and basically our fellow citizens of the world in England, Scotland, and Wales—either pre- or post-Brexit; does it really matter? I'd just like to offer that as a sort of a framework through which we can look at societies as what the "what" is as opposed to what the process is, and those institutions that we've spoken about are a way of all pointing this oil tanker in a similar direction.
Thank you for bearing with me as the view of an outsider looking at a participative process that isn't directly taking place in Northern Ireland but definitely on the island of Ireland. I think this engagement has been really valuable in understanding where I now understand where the Carnegie UK Trust is active in Northern Ireland, and I think the two areas and realms of work are very complementary.
Thank you again, and thank you, Aideen.
AIDEEN McGINLEY:Anybody want to make an observation or a comment or something that strikes you from what you’ve heard?
For me, there’s been a really interesting link of the vacuum [inaudible] and local with global and local, and tomorrow we’re going to get a chance with the [inaudible] to dive deep and talk about very specific practice in the United States. So today was very much setting the scene, but there was a very general sense, I think, of optimism. Or is there despair?
QUESTION: I'm Anna-Marie McClure. I'm here as vice chair of CO3, Chief Officers of the Third Sector.
I have to say I was a little bit distressed by our politicians, the view that they have. Yet, there's wonderful things happening in Northern Ireland, and of course, I, as a chief executive for an organization, can see that. But, unfortunately, the young people and the adults that my organization serve don't. My organization, Start360, works with the most complex and challenging young people in Northern Ireland, further away from the labor market, marginalized, forgotten I think, and invisible.
I'm just wondering. I mean the hiatus that we say we may be able to fill with the opportunities that have been very well and eloquently brought to this roundtable today does serve the chattering classes very well, but I don't believe it is serving those young people, adult offenders and their families, that my organization works with. In fact, from a CO3 perspective, the chief executives would very clearly say that in our sector because that's who we are working with.
I just would like to get a sense of—these people were mentioned: the educational disadvantage, the mental health issues, the increase in suicide, things not changing for them. It is distressing to me that Máirtín and Peter could not be here and share the same space. I'd like to know why that was, to be honest. Is that the elephant in the room, the grim prospect that we're not going to have a devolved government for a very long time?
So, maybe we have opportunities, but the hope in the communities that I work in across Northern Ireland is starting to dissipate, and that's the reality.
AIDEEN McGINLEY: There is one very particular view about the grassroots, what it's like at the grassroots. Anyone want to pick up on that?
NEIL GIBSON: All I would say to that is—and I have sympathy for their plight—some of the problems we've been talking about were here when we had an executive and now we don't, and before when we didn't, before the one that we did have. That tells us that these are hard, hard problems.
One thing—and it's not a positive, and I'm not suggesting that there's any good news in not having local representation—is it does give you a little bit of freedom to say, "Well, what way do we craft this so we can make progress?" As I said, the Wellbeing framework isn't a politicized document, so nobody who does come back is going to unpick it very quickly.
So the question is, what do you line up as the choices you would like? What sort of tax changes would we want to see? What sort of policy choices would we make?
Actually, the progress that can be made—we must not allow ourselves to feel as downbeat as you sound there. We all feel it at times, but we've got to try to make the progress so that when they come back there's a list of papers to say, "This is what needs doing and in this order, and these are the priorities." Any hope that we don't put our back into the efforts now and then come back and stand looking at them, the political leaders, like thrushes at feeding time, and saying, "Okay, fix this for me," won't work.
So all I can say is try to keep your spirit up, try to put all of our energies into having the list ready for the things that need to be done, in which order, and how they'll be paid for, so that we can get on when it returns.
I feel like that sometimes, but I feel a duty not to get sucked into that and try to make the progress that we can so that we've a good table of work for them when they come back.
AIDEEN McGINLEY: It's a good reality point here that we have that vacuum, and it's a bit what do we do with that vacuum so that those left behind don't get left further behind, and I think tomorrow we'll [inaudible] going to get normal.
AUDIENCE [Norman Houston]: Can I say something very quickly? I think the lady's point was very well made.
In the absence of having a working executive, I have found in Washington we have a lot of people coming out from Northern Ireland, most of whom are somewhere involved in the community sector, and their message is very much along what you're saying, that there are areas—I think it was my point earlier—that while the rising tide of economic development is basically helping the middle classes, there is a significant portion of Northern Ireland people that haven't benefited from it.
So my dichotomy in my job is on the one hand I'm talking about inward investment has gone up, tourism has gone up, and then on the other hand I'm going up on the Hill to ask people in Congress to continue to give money to the International Fund for Ireland or to the American Ireland Fund to continue to support projects at home.
I think that sort of messaging I have to do is somewhat fork-tongued at times, but there is most definitely, as far as America is concerned, still a lot of work and support that needs to be done essentially for those—I don't think they're forgotten; that's not the right word, it sounds too pejorative—but certainly are still struggling, and, in the absence of a functioning executive, the people who are coming out and being supported by the U.S. Consulate General are generally speaking people from your sector who are saying: "Hold on a second. There are very real issues here."
I've only one point and I'm going to shut up after this. I thought it was very interesting you were saying that you needed to have policy from the ground up, that you couldn't sit in an ivory tower and tell people what they needed, but in those conversations that you would be having in that wider section of society is there also an understanding of responsibility? One of the big things here in society is that, yes, everybody must have their say, but every individual group also has a responsibility, and it's not something that they can abdicate to some other higher social group. That's a question more than a comment.
NEIL GIBSON: Just a quick answer to that. Yes, empathy and responsibility are the two things that I always mention in this context. We have to have to have the empathy to try to understand situations and circumstances that are very difficult if you haven't lived that life. But equally, if we're going to get the society that we want, everyone will have a responsibility to that. It won't all be about finding new pots of funding and money to support things. It will be to find funding to fund problems out of existence that we won't need money for anymore. It'll be about amalgamating funding.
The real proof of the pudding will come when we have a wellbeing framework that says: "We're going to stop doing something, that one's not working. We're going to put our money here." That is a very painful and difficult conversation. But we'll only get there if everyone feels a responsibility.
I live in a region and in a state in which I will be fully supported to achieve my hopes and dreams. There will be a safety net to help me. But I'll play my part. That's where that lack of trust between taxpayers and between those outside of the tax net really needs to be improved, and we will not do that by keeping those groups apart when they're having conversations. So, absolutely responsibility but empathy on the part of people who maybe are trying to understand lives they've never lived.
AIDEEN McGINLEY: And tomorrow the journey continues to try to find solutions.
JOEL ROSENTHAL: Thank you all very much. Thank you.
I just want to thank you all for coming. I'm delighted to hear that the journey continues tomorrow, and I'm sure beyond that as well.
AIDEEN McGINLEY: Absolutely.
JOEL ROSENTHAL: This is not the kind of work that gets done in a day or a week or a month or a year. I know you're in it for the long haul, and I really admire that.
I admire you all for coming and sharing your time with us. Time is the most precious thing. You've spent the whole afternoon with us, and we really appreciate it.
I want to say a few thank-yous. I want to thank again the Carnegie UK Trust and its leadership, Chairman John Elvidge and CEO Martyn Evans. It's always a pleasure working with you.
Being an executive here at Carnegie Council, I know that that is a great responsibility, but we have a lot of people doing a lot of work. I know your staff has done a terrific job, and I wanted to thank them for their efforts. Allison, Lucy, and Warren, in particular, thank you. I also want to thank the delegates from the Northern Ireland Bureau who are here and helped us with the planning of this. Thank you for all of that.
Martyn, did you have any parting words?
MARTYN EVANS: It's a mutual thank-you to you for hosting us here. You seemed to do all the work on the other side of the Atlantic.