Democracy is about more than elections. It is about more than selecting a set of managers to run the country on our behalf. If democracy is not participatory, inclusive and founded on equality, if it does not belong to the people it is not fully democratic.
Planning should serve the public interest. Yet there is inequality and bias in our planning system that affords developers the right to appeal decisions that do not go their way but that denies communities and citizens that same opportunity to challenge decisions which adversely affect their well-being. This is unfair and unacceptable. The Green Party supports the introduction of third party rights of appeal in Northern Ireland. Our position gained majority support for this in the Assembly during the Planning Bill debate, but this was blocked using a Petition of Concern by those who wish to maintain a developers charter.
Democracy is not simply about voting every 5 years and leaving the politicians to get on with it. This leaves people disengaged and dissatisfied and dilutes the principles of democracy which were so hard won. The Green Party supports the participative democracy model which includes continuous engagement with citizens and facilitates decision making at the lowest level.
The Green Party in Northern Ireland were enthusiastic supporters of the Good Friday Agreement including the creation of our political institutions which were a key cornerstone of our peace. However we now need to review, reform and revitalise our democracy through participative deliberative process to ensure we have not just stable governance but good governance. This should be done through direct citizen engagement as changes to the peoples agreement requires citizen consent.
The European institutions are a necessary part of international decision making. However, they must have democratic legitimacy. Too many people feel that decisions are imposed upon them rather than representing them. The Green Party is a critical friend of Europe, believing that the institutions need to be more democratic. We therefore support an EU referendum.
There can be no democracy without transparency and the Green Party believes that the people of Northern Ireland are being denied the appropriate insight to enable them to judge which parties are working for them and not to the direction of big business funders.
Northern Ireland is the only region of these islands where political parties do not have to publish who funds their election campaigns. This means that we do not know who pulls the strings which means decisions could be being made on behalf of vested interests rather than for the good of citizens. The Green Party is the only party in Northern Ireland which publishes all its donations over £500 and campaigns vigorously for full transparency across the political spectrum.
Transparency in decision-making
From Stormont House to TTIP, too many decisions which affect your lives are behind made behind closed doors. This means our democracy is not as transparent and accountable as it should be. The Green Party is opposed to TTIP and our European partners have brought to light details of secret deals, and we will continue to campaign for citizen engagement in all decision-making.