The Social Democrats have called for the North’s Civic Forum to be reconstituted as a way to give voice to people left behind by the peace process.
The party’s co-leader Róisín Shortall TD said the consultative forum of civil society and community groups could serve as a counterbalance to the ‘green and orange’ straitjacket of Stormont.
Deputy Shortall made her remarks tonight during a Dáil debate on Northern Ireland. She said:
“The Social Democrats recently published our Northern Ireland policy. While we accept the Good Friday Agreement and the associated suite of agreements will remain the cornerstone of Northern Ireland policy, a fundamental rethink of the type of governance is urgently required. Stormont is stale, the model of power-sharing that was agreed in 1998 is dysfunctional and the voices of those who wish to move beyond the ‘orange and green’ divide are systematically excluded.
Deputy Shortall said that, in many ways, the status quo of direct rule suits everybody.
“Sinn Féin can appear to be ‘whiter than white’ in pushing their requests, the DUP can revert to their ‘Never-Never-Never’ position and the British and Irish Governments can retreat to their minimalist hands off approach to the impasse. The Social Democrats believe that these positions are unacceptable. They are a betrayal of the principals of the GFA, they are incompatible with the roles of the two governments as co-guarantors of the agreement and they are a disservice to the people of Northern Ireland at a time of great political uncertainty with Brexit looming.
“The Social Democrats believe that an enhanced Civic Forum, as originally constituted in 1998 is the one element of the deal that could force the parties back to the table. The Civic Forum, as a counterbalance to the ‘green and orange’ straightjacket of Stormont would serve as a voice for those who the peace-process has left behind, those groups that find themselves marginalised by the very nature of powersharing but continue to work for the community, women’s organisations, those fighting for LGBT rights, community groups and so on.”
7 March 2018
The Social Democrats’ Northern Ireland Policy is available to download here