Platform for Change: Belfast Election Hustings, Thurs 14 April

Platform for Change, which describes itself as ‘the NGO pursuing a new politics in Northern Ireland,’ has organised a series of ‘election hustings’ throughout Northern Ireland.

Its Belfast event takes place Thursday 14 April at the Crescent Arts Centre, from 7 p.m.

The event will be chaired byJim Fitzpatrick (from the Politics Show on BBC NI). Confirmed panellists include:

  • Clare Bailey (Green Party)
  • Brian Faloon (People before Profit)
  • Mark Finlay (UUP)
  • Alban Maginnis (SDLP)

It’s not yet clear if representatives from the DUP or Sinn Fein will participate.

The group also has produced ‘a new electoral agenda.’ They are asking candidates to ‘support the following core objectives’:

1. An assembly that is geared towards

  • A Shared Future
  • Sustainable development
  • Social inclusion

2. A Programme for Government including measures to

  • End the deadlock on academic selection
  • Stem rising unemployment
  • Offer opportunities for youth
  • Progressively dismantle the ‘peace walls’
  • Deal with the problems of the past

3. Revenue to be raised through fairly allocated water charges, investing to save and tackling duplication of services—not by attacking the most vulnerable

4. Government that engages the public, from individual citizens to NGOs, in designing and implementing policy

5. Collective responsibility in government and an official opposition in the assembly

6. An executive formed by a cross-community, agreed coalition, which will nominate its own first and deputy first ministers

7. A bill of rights to protect against political discrimination

8. An independent review of the electoral system

In addition, Platform for Change says:

We are asking parties to signal their willingness and ability to cooperate with others from across the sectarian divide in the next executive, and consider transfer arrangements.

The Platform’s electoral agenda has emerged from a process that included a hothouse, think-tank style discussion at Queens back in January. Among the ideas debated at that meeting were whether or not the Platform should run candidates in the upcoming elections.

The group has chosen not to run or endorse candidates. Rather, it seems candidates are being asked to endorse the Platform’s ideas. (Or to at least ‘signal their willingness and ability’ to prioritise them.)

At the very least, the Platform’s hustings events are designed get people and politicians talking about the issues (i.e. a shared future, dealing with the past, etc.) and reforms (major structural changes to the ways the Assembly does business) that the two largest parties – the DUP and Sinn Fein – don’t seem to want to talk about.

Gladys is a Research Fellow in the Senator George J Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice at Queen’s University Belfast. She also blogs on religion and politics at www.gladysganiel.com