Our service is not soundbites

October 22, 1999

Charles Leadbeater's analysis has a ring of truth in some areas, particularly the working conditions of academics. As is so often the case, he fails to recognise that the advent of devolution is changing and will continue to change the context for policy-related research and engagement with policy issues in Scotland, Wales and, I hope, here in Northern Ireland, too.

I would contend that under the years of direct rule in Northern Ireland, academics based here have demonstrated a willingness to engage with a policy arena that has involved some extremely contentious issues and in an environment that has driven moderates out of political participation.

Discrimination and equality of opportunity, human rights, policing, parades, battles over integrated education, segregated public housing and other issues have all engaged the academic community. A local academic heads the Human Rights Commission, the new police ombudsman is an academic and the new Equality Commission has two academic members.

We have been, and will continue to be, fully engaged. Torpor may characterise the situation in England but not here.

Bob Osborne Professor of applied policy studies University of Ulster

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