The Task of Government Irish Institute Begins Work With Assembly

Irish Institute Begins Work With Assembly

By Sean Smith
Staff Writer

The Irish Institute formally embarked on its program to expose members of the Northern Ireland Assembly to new models and methods of governance, as Irish Institute Director Sean Rowland and Prof. Marc Landy (Political Science) traveled to Belfast late last month to meet with the program's first 17 participants.

Landy and Rowland said the meetings, held from Oct. 27-29, set the stage for the Assembly members' arrival at Boston College next Wednesday. A week-long series of discussions on government with academic experts is scheduled, as are field visits to legislative offices and other governmental organizations.

"We briefed them on the program and answered any questions they had," said Rowland. "The Assembly members are eager to get down to the task before them, so they expressed a lot of interest in the content of the program. There was no shortage of enthusiasm."

"I was very impressed with the good spirit and morale I saw," said Landy, who is serving as a resource for the program. "The members see this as a great opportunity to acquire skills they do not have, and are taking it quite seriously."

Sean Rowland.

Next week's visit is part of the Task of Government Program, the American component of a larger transition initiative aimed at assisting Northern Ireland Assembly members and civil servants in carrying out their responsibilities effectively. The new Assembly, created through the Good Friday peace accord, will include representatives from a variety of political parties.

The 14-month program - announced Sept. 8 at Boston College by Northern Ireland Secretary of State Mo Mowlam - is funded in part through a grant from the United States Information Agency, with Boston College providing some funds as well as administrative and academic resources.

Titled "The Legislative Task," the Nov. 18-25 program will focus on legislative behavior, federalism and legislative-executive relations and policy analysis, with discussions led by Landy, Political Science associate professors Dennis Hale and John Tierney, College of Advancing Studies faculty member Wallace Coyle, and representatives from other area colleges and universities.

During the field visits, Assembly members will meet with state legislators, city councilors and their staffs to talk about practices, public-private partnerships and successful working models for delivering effective government.

Prof. Marc Landy (Political Science).

"It's a chance to talk about topics such as legislative oversight and accountability, information technology and communication, and intergovernmental relations," Rowland said. "The program will use case studies and simulations so the participants can engage actively in working through real problems of governance."

"This will be an intense learning experience," said Landy. "There is a whole spectrum of knowledge among the Assembly members. Typically, they've engaged in different kinds of political activities, but while they may be politically sophisticated, they haven't governed. That requires a whole other range of skills and abilities."

From Dec. 5-12, the Task of Government will continue with a similar program to assist political party staff members with their own role in the process of governance. Like the Assembly members, the staff will share experiences and ideas with their American counterparts on the city, state and federal levels. To prepare for that visit, Rowland said the institute will lead a delegation of federal government administrators to Belfast and Dublin, where they will meet and develop contacts with Assembly members and other governmental personnel.

In addition, as part of the program's European component, Rowland and Sara McDonnell, program director for the institute's Dublin office, accompanied 85 Assembly members to Brussels last week for a briefing on the European Union.

"This is a team effort," said Rowland. "There are a number of people at the institute and Boston College who are providing their expertise and energy to make this very important program a success. They are making a valuable contribution to the development of a new Northern Ireland."

Return to Nov. 12 menu

Return to Chronicle home page