Funded PhD Opportunity: Exploring the Public Leadership Constellation – A Responsible Leadership Perspective

The Department for the Economy (DFE) has announced that it will be providing funding for a three-year research study of Leadership (PhD) under the supervision of Professor Karise Hutchinson, a member of the Business Management Research Institute at Ulster University and CDPB’s Fellowship Advisory Board Member.

“Exploring the Public Leadership Constellation – A Responsible Leadership Perspective” will be conducted under the remit of Business and Management Studies, and supervised by Professor Hutchinson, Dr Ian Smyth, Interim Associate Head of Department within the Department of Management, Leadership and Marketing, and Professor Mike Hardy, of the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations at the University of Coventry.

The overall aim of the study is to explore the building of a new public leadership constellation in a post conflict society through the lens of leadership responsibility.  Specifically, the objectives are to understand how place, i.e., a post conflict society, influences the building of a new leadership constellation and relationship dynamics between public leaders; how leadership interactions across different sectors and institutions impact upon leadership responsibility at internal (individual leader mindset) and external (relationship dynamics) levels.

The research approach of this study is defined as ‘Mode 2 research’ (Gibbons et al. 1994; Hartley, 2018) – where the idea emerged from the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building Fellowship programme developed for 24 cross-sectoral leaders spanning political, civic and business society spheres.  Adopting a case study research design, data collection will include observation and interview reporting on the process and impact of the learning undertaken by Fellows during the programme.  The evidence will inform the development of a new model of public leadership constellation and responsibility.

The research study (PhD) position will be part-time, and the DFE’s funding will cover tuition fees at the home rate and a maintenance allowance of £16,000 (tbc) per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

To find out more about this exciting opportunity, including eligibility criteria for the study and scholarship, please visit:

Key dates:

  • Submission deadline – Monday 28th February, 2022
  • Interview date – mid March 2022
  • Preferred student start date – mid September 2022

CDPB announces Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick as the new Chairperson

The Centre for Democracy and Peace Building is delighted to announce the appointment of Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick as our new Chair, taking over from Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP. As Chair, Baroness Ritchie will provide strategic leadership and promote the values of democracy and peace in NI and throughout the world.

On her appointment, Baroness Ritchie said: “Earlier this year, I was delighted to join the Board of the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building. I have now taken over as Chair from Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP. My sincere thanks and best wishes to Jeffrey for all he has done for the Board in implementing CDPB’s strategy around peace and reconciliation in the global sphere.

The central aim of our important work is to bring about the principles of peace democracy through reconciliation, and there is much good practice that we can share from N Ireland. We are operating many projects – of which one is the Fellowship Programme for political and civic leaders in Northern Ireland, which I hope to support and further during my time as Chair.”

Alongside her duties as Chair, Baroness Margaret Ritchie, born in Downpatrick, Co. Down is a member of the House of Lords (Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick) since November 2019. She is a former MP in the House of Commons for the South Down Constituency from 2010 to 2017 and is a former Member of the NI Assembly from 2003 to 2012.

She is also a former Minister for Social Development from 2007 to 2010 and served for 24 years as a Councillor on Down District Council and held the position of Chair and Vice-Chair of that Council. She also worked as a Parliamentary Advisor and Assistant to the late Eddie McGrady who was the former MP for South Down.

We would also like to announce that the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building is now registered with the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland (Registration Number: NIC108448) marking an important new chapter for the organisation.


Political and Civic Leaders graduate from prestigious Fellowship programme

Fellows attended sessions online and in Belfast, Dublin, and Oxford as part of the programme backed by prominent Northern Irish business leaders

Leaders in civic society, business, and politics in Northern Ireland have graduated from the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building’s prestigious new Fellowship programme at a ceremony held at Hillsborough Castle.

The Fellowship aims to support, develop, and build the capacity of Northern Ireland’s political and civic leaders, with its first programme concluding at the Hillsborough Castle graduation ceremony. Through collaboration across the political, local government, business and civic society realms, the Fellowship seeks to spark new conversations that realise Northern Ireland’s potential for progress and innovation.

This year’s Fellowship gave 22 mid-career leaders the opportunity to engage with leading policymakers, business leaders, and public figures, and sought to develop their understanding of how to tackle pressing social, political, and economic issues here. The programme’s Advisory Board, which includes prominent Northern Irish business leaders, curated sessions seeking to re-imagine leadership in Northern Ireland, with Fellows also attending sessions at the internationally renowned Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford and the UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School in Dublin.

Featuring a video address from Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney TD, the graduation ceremony gathered esteemed business and political leaders from the UK & Ireland to mark the end of the first Fellowship programme. Attendees also heard from John Healy, Fellowship Advisory Board Chair and Vice President of Allstate NI, Professor Karise Hutchinson, Advisory Board Vice Chair and Professor at Ulster University, and others including Fellow Dominic O’Reilly.

The Fellowship is delivered by the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building (CDPB), working with key stakeholders and facilitators from the business sector and leading academic institutions. The programme is supported by Allstate NI, Devenish, FinTrU, Fujitsu NI, Ulster Carpets, the Irish American Partnership, and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney TD, said:

“Congratulations to the Fellows who have graduated from this programme. The pandemic has continued to create uncertainty for all of us, and it is a great achievement to have brought it to this milestone.”

“The Fellowship has provided participants with opportunities to talk about key issues that are important to their communities and the space to think about the kind of leadership that’s needed to work through them. I am glad that my department’s Reconciliation Fund has been able to support this important work.”

“At times, it’s so easy to focus entirely on differences and divergence. When we spend time with each other, we can recognise the greater agenda of things where we’re all working to the same goals. I would like to thank both the Fellows and the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building for their extraordinary work in these challenging circumstances.”

John Healy, Managing Director at Allstate NI and Chair of the Fellowship Advisory Board, said:

“I was thrilled to speak at the Fellowship graduation ceremony in what was a special ceremony held at Hillsborough Castle. This event celebrated the success of the first Fellowship programme which we hope will give our mid-career political and civic leaders the knowledge, skills, and relationships they require to lead Northern Ireland into the next decade.”

“This year’s Fellows have been a credit to themselves and their organisation throughout the programme. Their open-mindedness, diligence and determination led to invigorating conversations on the collective challenges we face in Northern Ireland and beyond. On behalf of the Advisory Board, I would like to thank them for their hard work over the course of this year’s Fellowship, and I look forward to seeing what each Fellow is set to achieve as their career progresses.”

Karise Hutchinson, Professor of Leadership at Ulster University and Vice-Chair of the Fellowship Advisory Board, said:

“It has been both an honour and a privilege to serve as Vice Chair of the Advisory Board for this year’s Fellowship programme. When we set out in this journey, we wanted to start a new conversation in Northern Ireland, one that explores the Spirit of Possibility and the new, innovative method of thinking we need to meet the challenges of today. With thought-provoking discussions throughout, each Fellowship filled me with optimism that Northern Ireland’s future leaders can navigate us through the complexity we are facing in the years to come.”

“I was very proud to congratulate this year’s Fellows at the graduation ceremony, and I wish them all the very best as they continue to work for their organisation or community.”

Dominic O’Reilly, Centre for Democracy and Peace Building Fellow, said:

“Since the start of the Fellowship programme in September, I have found myself developing and growing in ways which I had not anticipated, learning and unlearning, challenging, and validating. While each Fellow comes from a diverse background, we all share a common goal and purpose: to make this place we each call home better, for everyone.”

Julie-Anne Corr-Johnston, Centre for Democracy and Peace Building Fellow, said:

“I am very proud to be a graduate of the first Fellowship programme. I have formed what would be unlikely friendships and have grown to value difference. Each event, speaker, and discussion throughout this year’s Fellowship has continually shown the value of collaboration to address the challenges we face in Northern Ireland.”

The responsibility of leadership. Fellowship Graduation Speech by Dominic O’Reilly.

Centre for Democracy and Peace Building Executive Team, Fellowship Advisory Board, invited guests, and of course, fellow Fellows. 

In preparation for saying a few words tonight about the Fellowship Programme I decided to speak about the lived experience of this programme.

I have had to write this down because, to do justice to this programme and what it has delivered, I didn’t want it to be an off the cuff remark.

In this time of immediate answers, urgency, and confusion I believe it is ever more important to stop, think, and reflect on what one’s words will be.  Such is the power of words.

I could speak and write for hours about this experience, maybe I will.  It has been a journey like no other.  We have each engaged as much as possible in all of our time.  I have learned and unlearned a great deal.  There are two key experiences I’d like to mention.

On our first day at the symposium I found myself seated alongside John Healy and chatting about the programme. I don’t know why, if it was nerves or what but I recall asking him, “So how long has this programme been going?” to which John responded, “Well this is the first time…” “Really?” “Yes!  So you best make it a good one!”

Over time, I have genuinely gained an appreciation of the importance and power of John’s words that day.  The responsibility of leadership.

The second was as the Fellowship was coming to an end I found myself having a conversation with another Fellow about a fairly contentious matter: women’s reproductive rights.

For the first time ever, ever, I became aware that we were having a discussion and not a debate.  It wasn’t about one being right and one being wrong.  It wasn’t about winning or losing.  It wasn’t about changing their mind or them changing mine.

It was about learning about where they were coming from, understanding, and growing.  It required deep listening and a willingness to not have to be right, but just to engage with them.  Ultimately it was about empathy, and shared empathy at that.  I cannot describe what a rewarding conversation it was, when I consider we both hold such strongly held views on the matter.

I honestly do not believe I could have had such a conversation before this programme.

When thinking about tonight I did wonder, how are we graduating when there has been no final exam?  However, as Karise has said so beautifully: leadership is a muscle.  The test for us will be in exercising that muscle as we leave here, in how each of us lead in politics, business and civic society in the next decade and beyond.  That there are some Fellows here who will stand in the Assembly election next year is such a beautiful thing.

Whether we are in politics, business or civic society we need to work together, to be nourished by each other, to challenge each other and to make sure we are not repeating the mistakes of the past but building up the community of this place we call home.

For me personally, I’m continuing on my journey with a new perspective and appreciation for politics.  I entered this programme with a grounding in nonviolence.  The Fellowship has only deepened those roots and made me want to share it with others, to ennoble and empower and to challenge others and myself.  Be warned.

More importantly though, I have gained branches of Fellow leaders, that I can lean on, that I can encourage and that I can work with and who I cannot wait to work with.  The challenge is on us now to take the major investment which so many have placed in us and to transform our shared home into a place of understanding, empathy and genuine inclusion and equality.

Thank you to Eva and everyone who invested, prepared and delivered this programme.

Now, in conclusion last week Eva very kindly referred to me as the Poet, and that just warms my soul.  In the Spirit of Possibility I’d like to end with these words for everyone here tonight, committed to building a more democratic, and peaceful home for us all.  We are the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building.



I sat one day in Belfast town,

An old man stopped, May I sit down?

Please feel free, come take a seat,

Rest your heart and rest your feet.


The old man sat, sir you are too kind,

But do you mind if I ask, just what’s on your mind?

You look deep in thought, your face it is stern,

What weighs on your soul? Please help me to learn.


The cause of my worry, is hard to make clear,

I feel lost in the present, where the past has appeared.

I cannot make sense of the anger and fear,

I cannot make sense of the voices I hear.


The voices you speak of, what do they say?

Do they console, or condemn, or perhaps do they pray?

No, the voices are angry, they shout and they grow,

They say who to blame, and call out the foe.


Though I know in my heart there is more to their call,

There must be a reason for their frustration and gall,

Yet still in my heart, I feel a fear rise like a flame,

It’s the path leading on from anger and blame.


We know where it leads, that pathway I fear,

We saw it before, for too many years,

The worst of it is, the ones on this track

Have lived through it already, so why drag us back?


I watch the events now unfolding at ease,

And see foolish leaders, who can’t see wood for the trees,

Just what will it take for their anger to quell?

Why can’t they just listen, and let their hearts swell?


I guess I’m just worried, at decisions we take,

Always remaking the exact same mistakes.

I just want to look forward with faith and not rage,

Know our future is free and not locked in a cage.


My soliloquy now finished, the old man leaned in near,

Your truth you have spoken, it was a privilege to hear,

I know you are worried, and I know you are scared,

But just hear me out, and we’ll take it from there.


The world only moves forward, it can never reverse,

Regardless of those who shout, scream or curse,

They are the ones resisting the tide,

But it’s just their own fears, and their own foolish pride.


Remember there is only so much you can do,

You can’t fix it all, but you can start anew,

So now every day when you rise from your bed,

Give thanks for each one, your foe and your friend.


Embrace all your fear and your worries and doubt,

And don’t be afraid to cry, wail or shout.

You are only human, and so let it be heard,

Tame the savageness of man and make gentle the world.


The old man he stood and then shook my hand,

Don’t worry my friend and don’t fear for your land.

For the Spirit of Possibility, is alive in your heart,

So now go move forward and now make a start.


Tell your truth in all those places you’ll go,

Bring love to the fearful and the ones filled with woe.

Let your own heart-truth be your battle cry,

Let it reach to all corners and soar up to the sky.


Seek out the ones who will not agree,

Don’t let them slink off and don’t let them flee,

Make sure that they listen and make sure they know,

If they can’t work together, then they’ll just have to go.


Help others to see past their ego and rage,

Collective future assured, like birds out of a cage,

Build up the home where violence will cease,

Build it up a home of democracy and peace.


So keep your heart gentle and keep your heart kind,

And always remember, look after your mind.