Key tips for lobbying in the absence of government

03 November 2017 - by Anna Mercer

We are now in the 11th month of no Assembly. Following a second election that has yet to produce an Executive, it can be difficult to see how organisations can get their messages heard by those in decision-making roles. Many have put off their regular engagement until the institutions are restored and the Assembly is back in business, or at least until there is clarity on who is governing Northern Ireland.

However, as uncertainty becomes the new norm, organisations can no longer afford to align their public affairs strategies with the Assembly timetable. Political paralysis can make a bad problem worse; we need only look to the health service, or Brexit, to realise that while politics may be on ice, the issues aren’t.

So what can you do to ensure that you, your organisation or issue doesn’t get left behind by political deadlock? 

Here are our five top tips to help you progress your objectives, whatever the political landscape.

  1.        Identify and engage with key Programme for Government officials

The news draft Programme for Government heralded an era of co-design and co-production.  This means that those in charge of delivering it are engaging with business and organisations to help identify how they can better improve outcomes. This work is ongoing and will set the direction of travel in policy for the next mandate and beyond. So, time to dust down your Programme for Government submission and make sure your ideas are heard by those who need to hear them. 

  1.        Understand the Brexit Bill

Issues which have been led by the EU look set to be centralised at Westminster if the UK government gets to use its ‘Henry VIII’ powers. This means devolved matters, such as environmental and agriculture policy, could be decided at Westminster. Organisations impacted by this should not only understand the bill, but need to be actively engaging with MPs and committees on these issues.

  1.        Get to know the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee

With the Secretary of State outlining his intention to introduce legislation to put in place a budget, there is a possibility that we could move to direct rule of some iteration. The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee will have an increasingly important role in reflecting the needs and issues of the region and, potentially, in decision-making on matters that effect your organisation.  

  1.        Get to know local government

Enjoying additional powers, the 11 councils are increasingly playing a leading role in policy development, service delivery and planning. Now is the time to find out how engagement with local government can increase the impact of your organisation.

  1.        All-Party Groups

All-Party Groups function outside of the formal institutions of the Assembly and Executive. This means that they can and do meet. This is a useful forum to ensure that your issues are on the radar of MLAs in the absence of other formal mechanisms; and with some more time on their hands, the potential for a good turnout has never been better!