New NI think tank urges ‘big changes to address serious social issues’

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By VIEW editor Brian Pelan

A new think tank in Northern Ireland has called for big changes in policy to address serious social issues.

Pivotal, headed up by former civil servant Ann Watt, says it will act “only in the public interest’.

The group’s initial financial backers include the Irish government, along with Belfast Harbour, NICVA, The Community Foundation, The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, Queen’s University and Ulster University.

Pivotal director Ann Watt

Ms Watt, who was the head of the Electoral Commission in Northern Ireland, said that Pivotal will not have a position regarding the constitutional question in Northern Ireland.

She also said that Pivotal would not be describing itself as ‘left-wing’ or ‘right-wing’ in terms of its ideological beliefs.

“We want to address bread and butter issues,” said Ms Watt.

“Any polices we propose will be evidence-based,” she added.

The think tank would also not be taking any position on a possible future border poll, said Ms Watt.

Ms Watt also said that Pivotal would not be taking a position on the General Election on December 12.

Among the trustees on Pivotal are Seamus McAleavey (NICRA); Olwen Lyner (NIACRO) and Peter Sheridan (Co-operation Ireland).

Alison Millar, General Secretary of NIPSA; Former DUP junior minister Alastair Ross, Dawn Purvis, chief executive for a housing charity; and former Sinn Fein special advisor Leo Green, are among the members of the think tank’s reference group.

The think tank’s first document, ‘Moving Forward – putting Northern Ireland on the track for the future‘ outlines a number of areas they will look at the future, including health, education and poverty.

The organisation’s website says: “Creative thinking is essential to improving Northern Ireland. Public finances are stretched and we have few ways to raise more funding. More money might solve some problems but it will not solve them all. Investment made in one area will probably mean reductions elsewhere. Making better use of what we have is crucial.”

Pivotal plans to launch ‘Vision 2040’ – “a flagship project looking at the kind of place people here want Northern Ireland to be in 20 years’ time.”

For more details on Pivotal, go to


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