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.

  • Sounds interesting.
    About 99% of the platform sounds totally agreeable.
    I suspect that the panel of politicians will be in favour of it and then talk about their own issues of substance.
    Of the four confirmed speakers only one…..Mark Finlay of UUP, presuming its the same guy has signed up to the new politics agenda.
    UUP and “new politics”?
    The other three have 24 hours to sign up and sound sincere tomorrow night.

  • Rory Carr

    Item no. 6 of the agenda – “An executive formed by a cross-community, agreed coalition, which will nominate its own first and deputy first ministers” – poses some problems insofar as it could well mean that, so long as one of the unionist parties commanded the largest share of seats in any assembly, then it could, by allying with the minority nationalist party, always exclude the majority nationalist party from the executive and nab the position of Deputy First Minister for itself. While Margaret Ritchie may be salivating at such a prospect I imagine that Sinn Féin’s knickers will not require laundering.

    Besides which it would be decidedly antithetical to the democatic will of nationalists, which should of course bother the SDLP as much as it would Sinn Féin, but whether it would or not might prove to be an interesting little drama.

  • Rory Carr,
    its all wishful thinking, pie in the sky daydreaming anyway.

  • Rory Carr

    p.s. Apart from the other many admirable aspirations such as:

    An assembly that is geared towards
    * A Shared Future
    * Sustainable development
    * Social inclusion

    and a Programme of measures including
    * 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

    they might have included

    – Eternal sunshine

    – Guaranteed lottery wins, and

    – A satisfactory and varied sex life for all.

    Despite the admirable intention to “Deal with the problems of the past” I should not ask them to go so far as to make these benefits retroactive (except possibly for the lottery wins).

  • granni trixie

    As I’ve said before, I’m sure it can do no harm. But as for being the NGO of “the new politics” they haven’t offered any evidence of what they mean by this ie what is ‘new’? Or have I missed something?

    If they want to be “the new party” hae the guts to get a party going. Either put up or shut up (like Eamon McCann ultimately has).

  • Granni Trixie, I agree.
    Theyd much rather TALK than DO anything.
    Have you seen the list of names?.
    People who should know better from all the main parties (I think). But its Election Time.
    The great and the good from QUB will be there. But it could be a laugh? Are you going?

  • Rory Carr

    Good God ! I’ve just watched the link in Alan in Belfast’s thread of the Alliance Party’s election broadcast and it seems that they have jumped on my bandwagon and, more or less, adopted (and slightly adapted) my last three points above as a programme for government.

    Now the dilemna for me is – do I sue them for plagiarism or succumb to their blandishments, dislodge Naomi and take on the mantle of leadership ?

  • granni trixie

    Well done Rory. JOin us?

  • granni trixie

    Between labelling,canvassing,delivering leaflets (real work) have no time for extra meetings. As regards usual suspects joining PFC,many friends of mine who have done so do not really know themseleves why they have done so (or so trhey say).

    I suppose we return to “cannot do any harm” reason.

  • Rory Carr

    I would of course, Granni Trixie, be more than happy to take up your invitation to assume the leadership of the Alliance Party but, unfortunately, such an onerous burden would conflict with my already heavy responsiblities of putting out the bins for collection each Wednesday evening.

  • I think the actual platform is so bland….ie “do you like kittens?”….that its probably easier to just sign the darn thing than put up with the flak of being a kitten hater.
    And I think a lot of people have signed the platform on that basis.
    I hope they have refreshments. IBIS certainly pushed the boat out.

  • TheWormsWillWin

    agreeable agenda buy sectarianism needs to be challenged at the coalface. It won’t be defeated by a cosy gathering of The Nice People

  • Zig70

    The term shared future does my nut and I know I’m going to hear it more. Politics isn’t the place for dreamers, I want a 4 year plan, milestones, a smart vision and a head on the block.

  • USA

    Thewormswillwin,
    The omission of the word sectarianism also jumped out at me. It would seems to be a cancer that needs to be eradicated. It needs to be tackled through education, legislatively in the assembly, through policing and the court system.

  • Kadfoomsa

    “‘the NGO pursuing a new politics in Northern Ireland,”

    Google translation for foriegners.

    “We are people who couldnt get elected to a parish council but we are quite superior and would like a grant to try and circumvent prole politics”

  • My thoughts exactly Kadfoomsa.
    The peculiar thing about the Overclass is that they cant seem to accept that extremely stupid people (as they would see it) have one vote…….and extremely intelligent people (as the Overclass see themselves) only get one vote.
    Its so unfair.
    So a collective whinge tonight.

  • Platform for Change

    Hi everyone.
    As one of the co-organisers of the event tonight, and a committee member at PFC, I felt I ought to jump into the conversation at this point.
    First off, Gladys, many thanks for the plug. God knows our publicity isn’t as good as it could be (which I might add, Kadfoomsa, is one of the downsides of relying solely on member donations rather than scrambling for grants and having to tailor the agenda accordingly).
    Secondly, my thoughts on the phrase “new politics”. Whoever said that politics is all about parties? Politics is about relationships just as much as it is about institutions. We don’t need to have a new political party to change the way that politics are done here – as far as I see it that would be succumbing to the temptation of having a dog and barking yourself. What we need is a new set of goals and aspirations, as well as a new form of civic engagement. Platform for Change is putting pressure on the current parties to set out a clearly marked programme for government (one that will focus on social inclusion, sustainable development and a shared future (i.e. anti-sectarianism)) and to engage with citizens and NGOs across the board in order to deliver on those promises. If that doesn’t work out, we can always try floating candidates in 2015.
    I’m glad to see that people think we “cannot do any harm”, but if I’m interpreting Gladys’ words correctly, PFC also has the potential to “get people talking about the issues and reforms the DUP and Sinn Féin don’t want to talk about” – what we need is a critical mass, from wherever we can get them, who will keep those issues and reforms on the table on either side of the elections. PFC set out to be a “voice” for citizens of Northern Ireland in the sense that it would provide a platform from which other people could be heard – not that it would speak on their behalf. It would be very harmful indeed if it did turn into a cosy gathering of Nice People, but that will only happen if others – the supporters as well as the sceptics – don’t put their weight behind it. I can’t say I’m astonished by the anti-intellectualism encountered in this thread (it seems to be a common feature of the “collective whinges” that take place on this blog) but I would be shocked if anyone here really thinks that by abdicating civic responsibility they can somehow contribute to a better future.
    Anyway, whether you agree with that rant or not, do come along this evening if you can. Chris Lyttle has also confirmed that he will be joining the panel and I am hopeful that SF and the DUP will also be represented in some shape or form.
    Sinéad

  • Oh dear……I have just finished shaving and already booked a taxi to take me to the station. Not sure that I should have bothered now.
    To be accused of being “anti-intellectual” implies that Platform for Change people think they are intellectual. As Ive said Im always up for a laugh….and I can Sky Plus “Coronation Street.”
    If Sinn Féin and DUP have any sense, they wont bother.

  • USA

    Well said Sinead.
    Don’t let the cynical slugger community derail your efforts. Best of luck.

  • It was actually very good. Thanks to Platform For Change for arranging it. For the record Chris Lyttle did very well although he got hit by one bouncer.
    I expected the People Before Profit guy Brian Faloon to be a bit of weird Trot but he was actually very level headed and talked a lot of sense. Alban Magennis was late and took some time to get the pace but he was arguably the most professional.
    Clare Bailey of the Greens was I think a revelation. But I declare an interest. She is a friend.
    Mark Finlay was awful.

  • Oh Id just add that performance is secondary to the message that the panel were putting forward. As I lean to the left and am a moderate, Id obviously have more in common with four speakers than one.
    I dont think the panel really addressed any pressing concern of Platform For Change.

  • quality

    I’m impressed with Claire Bailey as well, wish her all the best.

    As for Brian Faloon, I guess I’d traditionally share the same political space as him. But (and this was something shared by his west Belfast party colleague at a similar event I attended) the brunt of his argument to prevent cut backs is get companies to pay more tax (which the NI Assembly has zero control over) or ask the Tories (who are well known for their benevolence) to give NI more money.

    I’m pretty sure every man and his dog (politically speaking) has asked the Tories to put more money into the north, and they won’t. There are areas of the UK they just don’t care about – NI, Scotland, Liverpool, the north-east of England – and proposed local government reform in England is an example of this.

  • Mark Finlay irritated me. It seems he thinks South Belfast and indeed Norn Iron should be grateful if he is in the Assembly.
    As I understand it he has business friends in London and New York who are just waiting to set up multi million businesses in Norn Iron and he is being frustrated by the current regime at Stormont.
    At one point I think he said (and apologies to him if its not accurate) that he had held 88 company directorships over 25 years. I should probably be more impressed with that kinda statistic than I actually am.
    And on another occasion he talked about Norn Iron being wired up (so to speak) in computer terms and we have gazillions of giggity diggity capacity which enables us to send messages to New York in 0.00000001 or whatever of a second……..and this is quicker than a message getting from New Jersey to New York. And some company wont set up here because of energy charges.