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KESS is jointly delivered by the Research and Information Service (RaISe) of the Northern Ireland Assembly, in partnership with all three universities located in Northern Ireland (NI) – Queen’s University of Belfast (QUB – co-founder in 2011), Ulster University (joined in 2012) and The Open University, joining as the third Northern Ireland university in 2013.

The first of its kind in the UK, KESS aims to promote evidence-led policy and law-making through a programme of presentations and debates by academia to decision-makers such as MLAs (Members of Legislative Assembly). The series offers networking opportunities, attracting a broad spectrum of attendees including: MLAs and their staff; Assembly staff; public and private sector employees; academics; voluntary and community groups; and members of the public.

Seminars are free and are held on Wednesdays from October through June at 1.30pm in Parliament Buildings. In 2017/18, the programme included seminars by Open University academics.

2017/18 KESS seminars by OU academics

Dr Leslie Budd - Making sense of Brexit’s challenges to economic citizenship.

25 October 2017

Managing the process of the United Kingdom (UK) exiting from the European Union (EU) for Northern Ireland (NI) is the most complex and challenging one of all the UK territories. It is the only part of the UK with a contiguous border with another EU Member State that is also a member of the Eurozone. The benefits include: an all island of Ireland single market; the second largest market for NI trade; close cross-border Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and economic co-operation; and, a common travel area. If the NI economy is not to be damaged and its economic citizenship and governance undermined permanently, a bespoke Brexit agreement may be an imperative. This presentation analyses the alternative scenarios as club goods and proposes the most efficacious one for NI.

It first analyses the performance of the NI economy and identifies the likely impacts of Brexit in the medium-term. Second, it refers to more spatially distributed key sectors to exemplify the potential consequences of Brexit for the whole of the island of Ireland. Third, it examines how the border between the two parts of the island of Ireland could become socio-economic beyond a physical one. Finally, it assesses how economic citizenship could be altered across the whole island of Ireland and what forms could emerge and their spatial settings.

In this presentation, “economic citizenship” is defined as the inclusion of citizens in the allocation, distribution and stabilisation of resources, to enhance their socio-economic welfare and well-being in the territories they inhabit and shape.  The presentation concludes speculating on the types of governance arrangements that potentially would need to be instituted in order to sustain economic citizenship for both parts of the island of Ireland.


Professor Simon Lee - Parity of esteem re-visited & re-imagined 

15 November 2017

In 1994, Professor Simon Lee analysed the history and philosophical underpinning of “parity of esteem” in a collection of essays in honour of Reverend Eric Gallagher, tracing the history of its use by politicians in Northern Ireland. This seminar returns to this theme. Sometimes the concept is used in relation to politicians in Westminster or Dublin: he asks what it means to be an honest broker or “rigorously impartial” in the context of Northern Ireland as the twentieth anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement approaches? Sometimes, the demand is that politicians or public bodies in Northern Ireland should show ‘parity of esteem’ in relation to communities or groups in the context of, for example, parades or languages or the allocation of resources.

But before addressing contemporary issues in Northern Ireland, the presentation considers how the concept has been used in other jurisdictions in discussions about such matters as different types of education and the provision and status of physical and mental health services.

Thereafter the presentation asserts that it is time to revisit and reimagine “parity of esteem”. It draws on two neglected political satires: The Rise of the Meritocracy by Michael Young (1958) and Facial Justice by L P Hartley (1960). The latter begins: “In the not very distant future, after the Third World War, Justice had made great strides. Legal Justice, Economic Justice, Social Justice, and many other forms of justice, of which we do not even know the names, had been attained; but there still remained spheres of human relationship and activity in which Justice did not reign.”

While doing so, this presentation seeks to answer a series of related questions. What exactly is ‘esteem’? Why should we bother with it? How do we demonstrate it? How can we develop ‘parity’ of esteem?


Professor Kieron Sheehy - Inclusive practice through keyword signing – addressing barriers to accessible classrooms 

29 November 2017

This presentation sets out evidence that having an accessible communicative environment is the core of inclusive educational practice, facilitating positive outcomes for diverse groups of learners (Sheehy et al., 2009). One effective communicate approach is keyword signing (KWS), which typically samples the manual signs of a country’s Deaf community. For example, British Sign Language is the basis of the Makaton vocabulary used in Northern Ireland. KWS signs accompany only the key word(s) in spoken sentences and so provides sign-supported communication, rather than a sign language. There is extensive evidence of the educational and social benefits to support using KWS. It has also been seen as a potential way to give some children a voice  within the criminal justice and safeguarding system (Bunting et al., 2015), addressing the mental health needs of people with learning difficulties (Devine & Taggart, 2008) and a  professional training need for  school staff (McConkey & Abbott, 2011). However, there are significant barriers which impede its use in schools and communities.  This presentation illustrates the nature of these barriers through research undertaken to develop KWS Signalong Indonesia (Sheehy & Budiyanto, 2014). It discusses how these difficult barriers could be tackled and the challenges this presents for policy makers with an inclusive agenda.




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