Challenges and Rewards of Engagement with Academia and the Wider Community

An Interview with Mr Brian Gormally, Director of Northern Ireland’s Committee on the Administration of Justice

  • Rebekah Corbett Queen's University Belfast
Keywords: Community Engagement, Northern Ireland, Committee on the Administration of Justice, Stormont House Agreement, Model Implementation Bill, Troubles, Legacy Issues, Engagement Between Academia and the Community, Human Rights in Northern Ireland, BrexitLawNI


The Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ) is one of Northern Ireland’s leading human rights organisations fighting for political and social change. In this interview, Mr Brian Gormally discusses the difference between ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ law, and how his organisation applies legal theory to the lived experience of Northern Irish communities in its work. In outlining some of the CAJ’s recent projects – such as its Model Implementation Bill for the Stormont House Agreement – Mr Gormally describes successful working relationships with academia, politicians, civil society and members of the community. It is also noted that the CAJ engages with the community in a specific and strategic way; rather than targeting the general public, the organisation produces information and research for those with their hands on the levers of power. Nevertheless, Mr Gormally identifies some striking differences in public attitudes towards human rights between England and Northern Ireland, and praises the community sector in the Republic of Ireland for crafting personal and anecdotal narratives to help win the same-sex marriage referendum. Finally, Mr Gormally describes the benefits and challenges of working closely with academia, concluding that such collaboration feels natural and has resulted in long and successful relationships with local academic institutions.