Pensioners’ Parliament: Strengthening Voice in Northern Ireland

Pensioners’ Parliament: Strengthening Voice in Northern Ireland

Narrator: Between 2005 and 2035, the proportion of Northern Ireland’s population of citizens over 65 is expected to double.
As a result, campaigning for policies that support healthy ageing and that push government to be responsible to the needs of older people is vital. Eddie Lynch: Age Sector Platform is a membership-based organisation of older people’s groups from right across Northern Ireland.
It’s an organisation set up to give older people a voice, and make sure that that
voice is heard by decision-makers. Narrator: The success of an earlier campaign about fuel prices led to the establishment of the Pensioners’
Parliament in 2011. This was set up to ensure that older people’s voices
would have a more powerful impact on policy. Michael Monaghan: The objective is, is to consult with older people right throughout Northern Ireland on the issues that are of
concern to them. They take the decisions and it’s on those decisions that
we base our strategy for campaigning and representing to Government
in both Stormont and Westminster. Narrator: Each year Age Sector Platform members elect representatives from across the community to participate in
a two-day regional parliament, debating policies with lawmakers
and defining older people’s campaign issues for the year ahead. Eddie Lynch: I think there’s a renewed energy around
older people in Northern Ireland. They’ve seen what can happen and that has
increased enthusiasm for the future. Every year we run our parliaments,
we get more and more older people coming out and saying, ‘We want to
speak up, we want to tell government and politicians the real issues
that affect our lives and we need to have a change to make a better life. Narrator: Members of the Pensioners’ Parliament have
even been invited to Stormont, the seat of government in Northern
Ireland, to debate the issues of the day with politicians and with the
Speaker of the House. House Speaker: Let us turn to today’s business and your
motions. Narrator: Already the Parliament has made great gains, successfully lobbying for government subsidies to support fuel costs
of the 80,000 older people with insufficient income to both eat and heat their
homes, as well as securing government commitments to address safety and
crime issues. Nelson McCauslan: Mr. Speaker, I note the concerns and the comments expressed by members of the Pensioners’ Parliament and
I do very much welcome the debate. Martin McCartney: This will galvanise everybody and help us to move forward and make pensioners a stronger voice to be, not just
listened [to], but heard and acted on. Edith Shaw: I think too much of government is centralised, they do things to us, and for us, instead of doing things with us. And
I think that would be a great improvement if we could organise that. Eddie Lynch: Many of our members have said that when they retire they are somebody on a Friday and nobody on a Monday. And some
of them say that they actually lose some purpose in life, where actually
having the opportunity to take part in debates on a wide range of issues
is something a lot of people have shown is really of interest to them. Julie Brown: You see a room full of 230 older people who have a voice, want their voice heard, and are not shy to let their voice
be heard. That’s when you know you have a result. The result will continue
for some time, ‘cause those people are not prepared to let that go away now. Eddie Lynch: The issues that we campaign on, they may be for older people, but they’re actually about improving policies by government.
So actually having an older population, with all that vast experience
throughout their lifetimes, fitted into government and helping with policy
development can actually have major benefits, not just for this generation,
but for generations to follow.

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