The Café Conversations event was like political speed dating; where candidates from various parties got to speak directly to families and people with a learning disability for a limited time.

Candidates were able to hear concerns about issues affecting people with a learning disability and answer any questions, before they had to move on to the next table and the next group of people.

Margaret Kelly, Director of Mencap Northern Ireland said:

“Café Conversations is speed dating for politicians and an informal way for families and people with a learning disability to speak directly to prospective MLA’s about issues that affect people with a learning disability, their families and carers. Mencap want to see people with a learning disability included and valued equally in Northern Ireland society. 

"So this is not a normal hustings event where politicians argue with each other, people with a learning disability and their families will express their views and challenge candidates on what their parties plan to do for them.”

South Belfast candidate stood with group of people

Who attended the event?

Candidates from all the major Northern Ireland parties attended the 2 events.

In South Belfast candidates attending included Emmet McDonough-Brown (Alliance), Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir (Sinn Fein), Claire Hannah (SDLP), Paula Bradley (DUP), Michael Henderson (UUP) and Ellen Murray (Green Party).

In West Tyrone candidates attending included Michaela Boyle (Sinn Fein), Daniel McCrossan (SDLP), Roger Lomas (Conservative), Alicia Clarke (UUP), Thomas Buchanan (DUP), Barry McElduff (Sinn Fein) and Roisin McMackin (Independent).

Mencap highlighted 4 asks of all candidates in the Northern Ireland Election, these were to:

  1. ‘Give children the best start in life’
  2. ‘Care for people with a learning disability at every stage of their lives’
  3. ‘Improve health outcomes for people with learning disabilities’
  4. ‘Support friendships and relationships'