Platform for Change debating Haass/O’Sullivan agenda (Mon 25 Nov); East Belfast Speaks Out (Wed 27 Nov)

The last week of November is shaping up to be a week of political hustings and community discussions.

platform for change vertical bannerLooking towards the final stages of the Haass/O’Sullivan talks, Platform for Change are hosting a panel discussion in Dukes at Queens (aka, Dukes Hotel) on Monday 25 November from 7.30pm to 9.30pm.

Previous events this year have explored flags (with a remarkable inclusive panel) and education. This time the panel tackling the agenda of the political talks and is appallingly titled:

Parades, dealing with the past, flags … and we thought they just hated each other

After a fraught summer of rioting and recent murders, against a backdrop of political impasse since the decision by the first minister to abrogate the deal on the future of the Maze prison site, the Americans are back to try to resolve the issues dividing the parties in command of Northern Ireland’s increasingly dysfunctional power-sharing system.

  • Dominic Bryan (Institute of Irish Studies, QUB)
  • Rev Lesley Carroll (Fortwilliam Presbyterian Church; member of the Eames/Bradley Consultative Group on the Past)
  • Brandon Hamber (INCORE, University of Ulster)
  • Maureen Hetherington (Towards Understanding and Healing),
  • Peter Osborne (Parades Commission)
  • Orna Young (independent researcher)

Trevor Ringland (former Irish rugby international) will chair.

Update – you can listen back to the event and read comments from those who attended.

East Belfast Speaks Out Nov 2013 posterLater that week East Belfast Speaks Out is back again in Ashfield Boys School on Wednesday 27 November.

In its first three years, the community hustings has attracted audiences of 400 to the school hall and featured featured DUP and Sinn Fein politicians as well as government/opposition ministers. Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness made a rare appearance as MLAs together on a panel in 2010. This year the largest executive bedfellows are being rested and other parties given a chance.

  • Alex Attwood (SDLP)
  • David Ford (Alliance)
  • Deirdre Heenan (University of Ulster)
  • Mike Nesbitt (UUP)
  • Theresa Villiers (Conservative NI Secretary of State)

Mark Devenport is back in the chair and will hopefully repeat the model from previous years which allowed a large range of questions – local and ‘national’ – to be covered by the panel.

Doors open at 7pm for a 7.30pm start.

Previous East Belfast Speaks Out panels:

  • September 2009 – Patrick Corrigan (Amnesty), Jeffrey Donaldson (DUP), Gerry Kelly (Sinn Féin), Naomi Long (Alliance), Laurence Robertson (Conservative). Mark Devenport chaired.
  • November 2010 – Liam Clarke (journalist and commentator), Martin McGuinness (Sinn Fein), Dawn Purvis (independent), Peter Robinson (DUP), Hugo Swire (Conservative). Mark Devenport chaired.
  • February 2012 (postponed from November 2011) – Michael Copeland (UUP), Sammy Douglas (DUP), John Kyle (PUP), Chris Lyttle (Alliance), John O’Dowd (Sinn Féin). Conor Bradford chaired.

Both events are open to the public and free to attend.

, ,

  • williewombat

    A panel of poundchasers and establishment activists then should be good for anyone who can`t sleep or who wants to see what people whose ability to influence doesn`t quite match their ambition or indeed their egos. Im sure the audience will be heavily weighted with the intelligencia from the lower n`ards rd and short strand. what a waste of time.

  • williewombat

    sorry after egos add “looks like”

  • Red Lion

    Just adding NI21 first party conference at the Europa Hotel on 16 November as another event – in the hope that Alan in Belfast will cover it!

  • Alan will recall a PFC event (Integrated Education)….the panel had at least one member too many and there was no genuine debate. The panel were all saying the same thing…and broadly speaking the audience was in sympathy.
    My first impression is that the upcoming PFC panel all have a similar…dare I say it….”letsgetalongerist” attitude.?

    I honestly dont think PFC do themselves any good by talking to themselves and agreeing with each other.

  • Turgon

    For once I sort of disagree with FJH (not really). He stated: “I honestly dont think PFC do themselves any good by talking to themselves and agreeing with each other.”

    On the contrary they do their egos no end of good. Williweombat’s description of them above is pretty spot on and that is the problem. It sound like it will be a platonic orgy of reasonableness and niceness.

  • Turgon

    Posted too quickly.

    Of course anyone who wants to is entitled to have any legal meeting they want. It is just as FJH says such meeting is likely to produce little but hot air to inflate further such people’s egos. Much as I may disparage him at least Ringland tried to get elected. The others look suspiciously like non politician politicians promoting their policies and complaining that such policies are not implemented.

  • Charles_Gould

    I think that the Platform For Change event looks very worthwhile.

    And I think all this talk about “egos” is mean and negative. Public policy discussion should not be left to politicians, and I think that people who organise public discussion events on important and timely issues are doing a good thing.

    I have organised some discussion events – it takes time and effort and I didn’t do it for ego but beause I thought it a worthwhile thing to do.

  • To take Turgons point a little further.

    I have no idea what INCORE at the University of Ulster is…but I suppose Institute of Conflict Resolution covers it. These glib things that only the Golden Halo actually know confirms for me that they are talking to themselves.
    Dominic is close to the thinking of Healing Thru Remembering. He certainly appears in their literature but in what material sense is Healing Thru Remembering so different from “Towards Understanding and healing”?
    Without being disparaging….two people saying the same thing only gives them the notion that more people in the broader community agree with them.
    One of the curious things about the PFC meeting on Integrated Education was that they all applauded and said “hear hear” to the statistic that 79% or whatever support Integrated Education… would have taken a brave man (and Im not one) to have caught the eye of the Chair to point out that only 1.5% voted for that two months before at polling stations in Mid Ulster …and that one of the panelists was a teacher in….Cookstown.
    That would not have gone down well.
    At my best, I think Platform for Change are harmless and delusional.
    At my worst, I think they are dangerous and trying to spread a network of like minded individuals into the fabric of Norn Irons so called Civic Society.

    I absolutely admire people who actually stand for election and make a pitch for my vote.
    But as a blogger recently stated…..a
    “The real currency of politics is not votes…Its influence””

    Somehow I just dont like that. And democrats should oppose it.

  • Charles_Gould


    “I think they [Platform For Change] are dangerous and trying to spread a network of like minded individuals into the fabric of Norn Iron’s so called Civic Society. I absolutely admire people who actually stand for election and make a pitch for my vote. But as a blogger recently stated “The real currency of politics is not votes, it’s influence” Somehow I just don’t like that. And democrats should oppose it.”

    I beg to differ. Democrats should welcome debate and discussion of important issues. There is a battle of ideas out there – and that is a very good thing. The better ideas will win out. All across the democratic world there are people like Platform for Change holding workshops and putting their ideas out there for everyone to think about; for them to be tested. Furthermore there are numerous other groups than Platform for Change doing the same. Far from being dangerous, this dialectic process is an important part of the democratic system. Politicians who stand for elections are often inspired by others, who have put the ideas out there.

    As JM Keynes put it: “Practical men who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back”

  • And of course…as a democrat, I admire you standing up and defending that position with someone who disagrees.
    Thats something PFC dont do.
    On Slugger, they are often talked about but rarely actually engage with people who disagree. They only talk to each other.
    Not so much a great debate about ideas as being elitist. At least thats how I read it.
    Politics is really too precious to be in the hands of Academics.
    What these people are doing is NOT Politics.
    Politics is what MLAs….DUP, SDLP, TUV, Sinn Fein, UUP are doing in advice centres every day of the week.
    If I was turned down for a DLA claim, or was having trouble with a planning application or whatever….I would not be going to a PFC meeting or a seminar at a university “institute”.

  • “What these people are doing is NOT Politics.
    Politics is what MLAs….DUP, SDLP, TUV, Sinn Fein, UUP are doing in advice centres every day of the week.”


    You are right: it isn’t politics–it is policy, which in almost all European languages other than English uses the same word. What politics is, is usually politicians advocating for and attempting to implement policy. In NI especially, it usually means politicians attempting to push people’s buttons so as to support the status quo and keep them in power. But any change involves researchers and thinkers developing and discussing alternatives to the status quo either by advocating the import of policies used abroad or coming up with original policies.

  • David Crookes

    Sorry to come in late. Have to congrue with williewombat and Turgon. Do any of these events deserve to be reported?

    Think I’ll organize one next week. “Walter and the Softies meet All Gas and Gaiters.” Panel — but you can guess the names of the panellists for yourself. You’ll be right.

    If you believe in change, stand for election. If you believe yourself to be unelectable, keep quiet.

  • Charles_Gould

    Mr Crookes

    What williewombat said was quite mean. I am disappointed that you agree with it.

    Those people on the panel could easily stay at home, or in the office. I don’t think their participation in the seminar should be dismissed as “ego”. When people invited to speak they generally feel it is their duty to do so, the question of “ego” seems churlish.

    These events do need publicity to generate worthwhile discussion. Alan in Belfast has been a a very positive influence on this forum and I trust his judgement as to what should be published here.

    As for your exhortation for people to “keep quiet” if they don’t stand for election, that really does seem out of kilter with the Mr Crookes I knew. It seems to assume that there is no role for influencing opinion other than by election.

  • As I stand on this platform for change, contemplating this journey for change should I turn to Orna Young and Transconflict – or to Translink? The latter offers a choice of destinations and occasional wi-fi whereas the former – if I can borrow from Turgon, who seems to know about these sort of things – indulge in platonic orgies on a journey to nowhere ie naked people sitting around naked drinking coffee on the Circle Line. Politics being show business for ugly people I suppose I can only hope that Transconflict puts a ban on politicians as members 🙂

  • The politicians attached to Platform for Change are I think exempt from criticism…as “Turgon” observes they have the guts to offer themselves for election.
    Mr Gould states that a previous contribution is “mean” and thats true to some extent…..but it doesn’t matter because PFC have thick skins. The other side of the coin is that Mr Gould will forgive me saying that he is naive about the public spirited nature of all this.
    While not being specific about any particular panel, networking and being seen IS very much part of their work. Hence we always have six person panels where four would actually be more enlightening.
    What they say is secondary to them being there in the first place.
    It is naive to think that academics are not egotistical. They are very conscious of their place in the hierarchy.

    Of course if I was 30 years younger, Id sign up to Platform for Change.
    I would not of course believe in their agenda but I know what looks good on a CV and Id be looking around to see who else was a signatory..
    And I might join the Freemasons also.

  • mjh

    “If you believe in change, stand for election. If you believe yourself to be unelectable, keep quiet.”

    Would this instruction not also cover making comments on blogsites?

    How dull would Slugger be then?

  • You guys are dinosaurs. PFC may not be hugely dynamic but if it brings political discourse to some others then brilliant – just as West Belfast Talks back did and East Belfast has followed, just as the dozens of summer schools do every year – and may I add does Question Time, Any Questions, Any Answers etc etc etc. Watching and listening to those is the same. They are often populated by non-political figures.

    Political discourse is far too important to be left only to politicians. I know of no one who is motivated to join that class yet I know many who are deeply concerned about the state of this place and who have decided to put their efforts into non-profit work, or some other way of advocating change.

    Change here happens despite the politicians. I thought everyone would get that by now. If you have personal ambition for a society change agenda, best not join a political party. Give me a politician who has had an original thought in 30 years. Even Nevin has been advocating how they can “do it” from the sidelines since the 90’s.

    In fact the whole of slugger is one big Platform for Change equivalent. See it differently now?

  • Well our capacity to band together as a Group calling ourselves “Platform for Things Staying Exactly the Same” is limited.
    I would happily share a panel with “Turgon” and four other like minded people.
    I am a founder member of Healing Thru Amnesia….but we dont get as much publicity as Healing Thru Remembering.
    Whether the great and the good in the Golden halo would turn up to listen to the likes of Turgon and me????
    For a group that preaches Tolerance, they are remarkably intolerant.
    Politics SHOULD be about Conviction. A dissenting voice is something they dont seem to like.

  • Nobody on this platform has amnesia – that’s for sure. But I see your desire to have your voice heard. Knock yourself out and organise it – Alan might even go along to your good room lounge to hear the insights and share them with us.

  • Hardly…all those examples have dissenting voices.
    Platform for Change…..look at the panel above in original post and tell me who the dissenting voice is.
    As I understand it, PFC did a survey of its own members and are under-represented in Mid Ulster, West Tyrone, Fermanagh-South Tyrone.
    They are just another example of how the Golden Halo has no regard for anywhere outside the South East Belfast, North Down corridor.

    Indeed in April 2011, I attended an election hustings promoted by PFC some distance from Belfast. It was canceled. I was the only person who turned up.

  • Actually I couldn’t give a tinkers curse about my voice being heard.
    As long as I am filling in the application for a Grant for Healing Thru amnesia….thats the limit of my ambition.

  • Mc Slaggart

    Michael (profile)

    26 October 2013 at 2:17 pm

    “Nobody on this platform has amnesia “I

    I find Trevor Ringland a strange choice of chair? His views on things come across as both amnesia filled and polite bigotry. Take this account of him telling someone else that in his eyes they was “British”.

    “He argued robustly for equality and ‘parity of esteem’ for the Irish in Northern Ireland. I asked whether his definition of Irishness included me, pointing out that my definition of British included him.

    He laughed and he said he would get back to me, but I’m afraid he never did!”

  • DC


    Thought you had given up the blogging – you must have more time on your hands than you thought?

  • McSlaggart – The “platform” I was referring to was Slugger – I don’t know much about PFC but I’ll defend its right to create a space for itself to have a voice. By the fact that it pisses some people off – means it must be doing something noticeable.

    SoT offers lots of people a platform to have their voice heard even if those using it don’t know it. Posting here: sending messages to those on the same wavelength, is the same as turning up to a PFC gig. It’s a kind of irony – sort of Northern Irony.

  • Seamuscamp

    Discussion by people who are principally in agreement is not debate. It’s a sort of mutual reassurance that resolves nothing as there is no thrust to convert.

    CG: “Those people on the panel could easily stay at home, or in the office.”

    I’ve just been reading in the Times about a boy who was in a documentay about Harrow School many years ago; and is now a consultant pediatrician. In his latter school years, he suffered from a continuing compulsion, as he walked about, to position himself in the back row of an imaginary scrum.

    For some people, public speaking/denouncing/supporting is that sort of compulsion. They see it as their duty to preach.

    I keep thinking of the Irish word “eist”, with two meanings – “listen” and “shut up”

  • DC.
    I am the Seamus Mallon of Blogging.
    Semi Retired.
    Not taking it seriously. We are in pre-conflict mode and nothing we do will stop it.

  • David Crookes

    All right, Charles. Maybe what I wrote was disrespectful both to PFC and to Alan, who takes the trouble to keep us informed about such things. Sorry all round.

    But in the course of a long life I have encountered far too many of these platforms. Some of them are put together by utterly good people who want to change things for the better. Others are put together by people (and here williewombat is right on the ball) who want to get attention for themselves. One such platform recently celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary. It had little else to celebrate. If that unvigorous platform was worse than trivial in 1988, it is worse than trivial today.

    Now to mjh’s question. You and I shooting off our gubs on Slugger are not in the same league as people who put together a platform and invite the media to take note of their deliberations. Slugger is far more useful than any platform put together by persons who agree with each other. A new agreed Ireland could be conceived on Slugger, and born out of the vigorous dialectic which Mick and his site help to foster.

  • It is sadly predictable.
    The audience will include some former paramilitaries on one side of the aisle…talking about their pain and their understanding of the pain of others. They will lambast mainstream politicians for not giving them more money to deal with their pain.
    On the other side of the aisle will be some victims and I respect that. There will be some spokespersons for victims about whom I reserve the right to be skeptical. They will talk about pain trauma and lambast mainstream politicians for not giving them more money to deal with their pain.
    The Platform will agree with everyone. ” I hear what you’re saying” and the more emphatic “I hear EXACTLY what you’re saying”.
    And the Platform will lambast mainstream politicians for not giving them more money to do more research on the research pioneered by someone else on the platform.
    Nobody will actually criticise anyone else and the only criticism is likely to be of anonymous bloggers who dare to be cynical about what is going on.

  • > I would happily share a panel with “Turgon” and four other like minded people. I am a founder member of Healing Thru Amnesia…

    I’ll happily book a room for FJH’s panel – I might even turn up to listen to the discussion. We could call them the “Horse Talks”.

    In modern times, death and taxes are joined by the surety that a mention of Platform For Change will be swiftly followed by criticism.

    Community hustings with politicians can hold them to public account. But the range of views will be limited to the politicians and/or their party policies. The audience attending the Pending Vote performance in the Lyric on Monday night were overwhelmingly pro-choice … but you’d struggle to get more than a handful of politicians in NI to say in public that they supported pro-choice (though you’d get many more in private).

    So if we want to discuss other policy angles, hear alternative views, then we need to look elsewhere. Platform for Change and organisations like NICVA, Amnesty and Contemporary Christianity/ECONI are our local alternatives. It’s been mentioned on Slugger before: NI doesn’t have think tanks – organisations dedicated to policy research and advocacy.

    Remember that the Haass talks are not government sponsored. They’ve been organised by the local parties as a vehicle to negotiate hot house a settlement on a few thorny issues. Meghan O’Sullivan’s encounters on the ground in NI together with Richard Haass’s meetings in London and Dublin may yet encourage the governments to intervene – but until that happens, the talks’ are party controlled.

    So while the PfC panel may be middle of the road letsgetalongerists – though Parades Commissioners might be happy if that was all they were called – there’s a large section of society (some of whom still bother to vote) who think like that. And instead of going to a DUP conference or SF ard fheis, instead of listening to the resolutions in the field on the Twelfth (if only more in Belfast would) or attending other pseudo-political events, this is their field. This is their opportunity to listen to voices and think.

  • mjh

    “You and I shooting off our gubs on Slugger are not in the same league as people who put together a platform and invite the media to take note of their deliberations. Slugger is far more useful than any platform put together by persons who agree with each other.” – David Crookes.

    And in the same post: platforms “put together by people …who want to get attention for themselves”

    So, David, people who do not stand for election should not express a viewpoint or suggest change – unless they do so on a “useful” platform – in which case it’s OK.

    But, if instead of confining themselves to useful blog posting, they make the considerable effort to get together with like-minded people and organise to gain attention for their views they can be safely dismissed as attention seekers and ignored.

    So what’s left for those who do not want to change society or just a particular governement policy?

    Become a full-time politician? Not everyone can. Not everyone wants to.

    Restrict their efforts to posting comments on useful blogs? Like anyone much will take any notice!

    Or take to the streets?

  • mjh

    Should have said “who want to change” not “who do not want to change”.

    Why is it that really stupid mistakes are invisible before you push the Submit Comment button, but leap out in neon 20 seconds after?

  • David Crookes

    OK, mjh, I ‘m well skewered, so I’ll stop talking nonsense.

    Why is it that really stupid mistakes are invisible at the moment when you make them by opening your bake?

  • Alan,
    it might well be true to say that our Norn Iron politicians are not representative of an audience at the Lyric Theatre….but they are representative of the electorate.
    With the best will the world, the people in the Lyric audience are not representative of the people in Norn Iron.

    I’m not sure that the opinions of a Platform for Change panel or a Lyric audience are more valuable than….mine. Of course there is a strand in Conflict Resolution which says that our universities should be more involved in a Civic Forum etc. Of course thats not that much difference in thinking that and saying a university graduate should have an extra vote.

    Would university constituencies be a good idea? Would any of our non-think tanks like that. Give them more influence than the rest of us.
    A lot of people would consider that undemocratic and consider the attempts of university academics to have more influence than their single vote deserves.
    It is indeed almost compulsory to greet every announcement of PFC with criticism. As I said there will be a casual dismissal of this cynicism from the PFC panel.
    Alan….you and I have been at enough of these things over the last few years to know that my earlier analysis of how it will play out is not wide of the mark.Mutual back slapping dressed up as new thinking.

    A handful of post graduate students (many from abroad) will be in the audience. And in due course they will make their way into these panels.

  • mjh

    David Crookes

    If the rest of us displayed half the class of your last comment there really would be a new Ireland. Or at least a new Slugger.

  • Mc Slaggart


    “PFC but I’ll defend its right to create a space for itself to have a voice. By the fact that it pisses some people off – means it must be doing something noticeable.”

    The fact that you have an organisation which uses “misleading labels” as its not a “platform for change” but a body with a specific manifesto is not doing anything new.

    I love the line they have ” deep sectarian divisions” yet they documents are all “Northern Ireland” focused. To me that is “Narrow-minded; parochial” that is sectarian.

  • Mc Slaggart

    Alan in Belfast

    “some of whom still bother to vote”

    Why do you think the political outlook of people who do not vote would be any different to those who do vote?

  • Charles_Gould

    Please understand that academics are encouraged (and indeed required) by their funding bodies to do this kind of thing – it is part of the process of “dissemination” to research-user groups. It isn’t necessarily a matter of ego; it may be a matter of CV but what is wrong with academic ambition?

  • Ah Academic Ambition.
    Now theres a thought.
    Nothing wrong with Political Ambition either.
    Or indeed the Ambition to be on a Quango in the next ten years.

    Academics have a requirement to do this?
    But thats different from suggesting (10.26am yesterday) that they could easily sit at home or in the office.
    The whole pro bono thing might have some credibility if they were doing more than talking to each other and getting invites to address conferences world wide or get on “The View”.

  • Charles_Gould

    Yes, fitzjamesorse1745 I agree it’s different from saying they could sit in the office. But its also different from just “ego”.

    For the academics, their funding bodies require them to say how they disseminated their research. In particular they are asked to write about the “impact” of their work, and having addressed a conference or workshop, especially if it got mentioned in the media, is a measure of “impact”.

    Most of these people seem to be are professionals whose work is in part appraised by dissemination to “user” audiences.

    That is, the funding bodies have the view that such workshops constitute an important mechanism for ensuring the research has some “impact”.

    Academics have to write an “impact statement” and then other academics have to peer-review the impact statement, and those gaining a good review will be more successful in future funding applications.

  • Exactly….an academic exercise of interest to academics …and which academics want to keep to themselves. remote from the general population (except when they are subjects of a study and being written about). But Heaven forbid that the general population should actually express an opinion that is ….not fully on-message.

  • Charles_Gould


    The academics will gain kudos with the funding agencies if their work is seen to have had a policy impact; i.e. if their work is seen as one of the drivers that led to a policy change. Under the Research Excellence Framework, your academic department can gain financial benefits if you can write a “case” explaining how your work directly led to a policy change, via public policy discussion.

  • And what gives them this unique “right”?
    Lets be precise here.
    Funding Agencies …with an agenda? ….give academics (who dont have an agenda?? Except their ambition and what they occasionally see as the public good) money got change public policy….presumably in the direction that the Paymaster wants.
    To change it in ANY direction?
    And this is a “good” thing?

  • Charles_Gould


    The funding agencies do have agendas: they have certain “initiatives” or “areas” that they seek research on.

    The academics will not be interested in doing work that will not be published in top peer-reviewed journals or as highly-thought-of books.

  • Charles_Gould

    That is to say the research will not change policy unless it is seen to be evidence based using reliable quantitative methods.

  • Oh I think saying that diminishes academics.
    Surely there is such a thing as academic independence.
    This kinda notion would relegate the to the role of hired academic to a patron…like a painter in a medeival court.

    Presumably the academic has to broadly agree with agenda of his/her benefactor. Or are they going to go back to the donor and say…….”actually my research (?) tends to prove your agenda is all rubbish….please can I have some more money?”

  • David Crookes

    How often do you get an academic associating himself boldly with some doctrine which is not in any sense a party line (viz an accepted notion, or a received idea, or a piece of group thinking)? One man who lives in that world might reply, Not very often. I remember a tenured American professor once saying, “Never believe an academic until he is retired.”

    I’m no right-winger, but being known to have a right-wing political mindset will do you no good if you seek a position as a lecturer in education in a British university, while being known to have a left-wing political mindset will do you no harm. There are certain prevailing winds inside the academic edifice.

    The Sokal controversy showed what a pitiable house of cards the whole edifice can be.

  • Charles_Gould

    I think that ambitious academics need to be published in top journals, and to do so requires positive peer-review. That is, an academic has to be creative in a way that garners the approval of his peers. The system can result in group think but it is the accepted quality-accreditation mechanism in the academic and scholarly world.

  • Mr Crookes is broadly right.
    But all “respected” historians lie within accepted boundaries….centre right to centre left.
    Locally….being known to have republican or unionist views will do an academic no good.
    The successful operate within an area that is best described as “letsgetalongerist”….thats the best option for a careerist.
    And also the value bet to get on TV or on a quango.

  • Charles_Gould


    A good historian will posit an argument, but back it up with evidence and reason, whose empirical validity can be challenged using archival or statistical evidence. It is through these rather boring means that you become respected.

    Just spouting off a trendy opinion is not going to cut it.

  • Well…thats a good theory.

  • What is this dreadful thing that has happened? An organisation consisting of people working in their spare time for better governance in this part of the world decide to organise a PUBLIC meeting on a current event, so that anyone who is interested can come along to listen to different perspectives and put their point of view.

    The reaction on Slugger makes me despair, it really does. Snide, nasty and poking fun at people who actually do stuff. I gave up commenting on Slugger some time ago but this is too much. I am so angry.

    And BTW because I don’t believe in posting anonymously my full name is Jenny Muir, I’m a member of the Platform for Change EC and also the Green Party, AND I’m an academic. So let’s get that hate mail flowing, that should be good for another 50 posts at least. And my work e-mail address is easy to find so I await the more personal insults that way. I am female so I’m sure that’ll help.

    And for someone who is going to need to slag me face to face, yes I’ll be at the meeting. Bring it on.

  • Oh dear.
    As I made clear, standing up at the last meeting on Integrated Education and saying “this is nonsense” might not have gone down well.
    What made me despair was the man at the PFC thing in the Black Box about two years ago (maybe you were at that one also). We had just sat thru a dramatic presentation by four or five very brave women from both communities. Very very emotional.
    And the man said….”if only I had known”.
    And thats the point. He should have known. Nobody in MetroTextual land seems to have known about this.
    Now they want to be part of the solution.
    The extent to which people in PFC are actually doing stuff (beyond having a nice CV) is of course a matter of debate.
    As “Turgon” has already made clear, and I have agreed…politicians are clearly exempt from that.
    Although clearly some join parties (not the Greens obviously) whose entire raison d’être is NOT to get elected. If I ever go to a third preference, it might go to the Greens.

  • Mc Slaggart


    “at people who actually do stuff. ”


    A bunch of “academic” is not a group who would be my list of people who actually do stuff.

    My objection is simple your talking shop is “Northern Ireland” focused. To me that is “Narrow-minded parochial” and more importantly irrelevant in the modern age.

    I would be interested in who did the Platform for change think was the “accommodating and progressive political parties”

  • Charles_Gould

    Well said Jenny.

  • IJP

    I really can’t agree that anyone wanting to change society should necessarily have to try to enter politics.

    Many people can contribute to society through their work, through non-partisan charity work, and indeed through cross- or non-party campaigning. The dirty world of politics isn’t for everyone – and getting elected is a specific skill often entirely unrelated to your ability to legislate for the country (or even run a Council).

    On the contrary, we really do need think tanks – i.e. a-political policy institutes able to think and bring forward proposals independently, publicly and freely. Try doing that regularly as a political party member…

    So I strongly support Platform for Change. My problem with it is that it invests too little time in considering how some of its proposals could ultimately be campaigned for and delivered. There is also an implicit assumption that NI politics is too far to the “right” and thus the change must come from the “left” – if anything, particularly on finance, commerce and welfare, the reverse is more the case.

  • Mc Slaggart – About those “accommodating and progressive political parties”. From a post about PfC’s launch event:

    Political representatives (councillors, MLAs and several Westminster candidates) from Alliance, Green Party, PUP, SDLP and UUP were all present at the launch and listed as signatories to the platform. However the SDLP were quick off the mark with their press release (handed to me at the end of the launch!) and to date seem to be the only party to centrally endorse Platform for Change.

  • The last time I looked at the Platform for Change signatories, there were not that many people I recognised as SDLP people.
    That was of course a few years ago.
    The SDLP have a record of out reaching to all kinds of political opponents. Recent Conferences I have attended give far too much space to people who wouldn’t give the SDLP daylight, never mind a vote.
    I have certainly never heard anyone inPFC say a good word about SDLP except of course to talk about a move to “normal” British Left -Right politics.
    I think or maybe just hope that the SDLP has learned something about listening to its own members and voters rather than listening to people who see SDLP outreach as something to be exploited.
    That is possibly a lesson that has been learned over the past couple of years.

    Those who can….DO.
    Those who cant….TEACH.
    Those who can get elected….put their names on a ballot paper.
    Those who cant get elected….form a think tank.

  • Charles_Gould

    “Those who can….DO.
    Those who cant….TEACH.
    Those who can get elected….put their names on a ballot paper.
    Those who cant get elected….form a think tank.”

    And all the rest write comments on blogs 🙂

  • Turgon

    Oh dear Jenny touched a raw nerve have we?

    The reality is that on slugger all manner of political parties and positions are attacked and ridiculed on a regular basis. Maybe you should be grateful that PfC are not being ignored.

    The real problem with PfC is that it is advocating very political and indeed party political positions yet few of its members are willing to stand for election. Despite this non standing for election there seems from PfC to be a whiff of disrespecting and ridiculing politicians and indeed at times the electorate. Hence, maybe the enthusiasm for laughing at PfC.

    This is compounded by the fact that many in PfC are the middle class “great and good” or appear to want to be. Again there seems at times the whiff of an entitlement complex: entitlement to political power and influence about them. In a previous generation exactly these sorts of people got QUANGO jobs and one wonders if some PfC types think that a bit of PfC work might do the chances of joining the Quangoracy no harm.

    The concern about academics in PfC is, however, valid. There is a suspicion that these sorts of events are actually done not merely from the goodness of their hearts nor primarily because of care for the community but to further their own careers.

    The way PfC have been laughed at is nothing as compared to the treatment of the flag protesters both on slugger and elsewhere. Indeed the comments on your own blog although not as insulting as some could be seen as a bit condescending towards the flag protestors and the reasons for their anger.

    That may all be completely unfair but if the likes of PfC wanted to throw off such allegations they should invite people with views very different to their own and try to ensure the audience contained significant numbers of supporters of those alternative positions. That really would be stimulating debate. Their current positions look more like a luvvies love in or as I said above a platonic orgy of niceness and reasonableness.

    Finally on the subject of anonymity. It is probably easy for an academic with letsgetalongerist view to reveal their names. However, for some of us with cross community jobs and sometimes living in more contentious areas it is maybe better to stick to anonymity. Certainly Mick has never had a major problem with it and the regulars here are not anonymous but pseudonymous. Though in no way would I compare myself to his brilliance if a pseudonym was good enough for George Orwell it is probably good enough for me (and maybe FJH).

    As to sending you hate mail: not my nor I suspect most sluggerites style and your gender is supremely unimportant to me and probably to the others as well. My email is also valid (though pseudonymous) so if you want to send me some hate mail feel free.

  • Indeed Mr Gould.
    but who would pay attention to the likes of me?

  • IJP


    Again, I don’t see why a career businessperson or a career academic or a career civil servant should be barred from holding and expressing political views – but none of them, realistically, could stand for election.

    I did stand, of course – but even that, frankly, was before I had a family. Once you have to put food on the table etc, I’m afraid elections become a risky luxury. But I’m still entitled to a view.

    The issue with PfC is its inability to engage politically in any way. It puts out positions on what those taking decisions should do, with no reference whatsoever to those people’s motivations or practical limitations. I would agree that part of the reason is that so few of them have ever actually run an election campaign; but that is not to say they should all stand tomorrow, it is to say they need to engage better with those who do.

    The other problem is PfC’s very academic and frankly middle-class culture – it’s all very well sitting in a cosy hotel talking to people of the same class and similar profession… but sometimes you have to get on the doorsteps in the sleet, into the Felons Club on a grim March morning, or into the rural Orange Hall on a windy Burns Night. How many PfC-ers have really done all that? Because that’s who they need to persuade…

  • I would be very disturbed if Jenny Muir actually got abusive emails from anyone on Slugger.
    certainly its not my style Jenny.
    I actually considered sending you an email to tell you my “real name”. But its pretty much known to some of the people on the Platform for Change executive.
    I dont therefore consider comments I have made here to be anonymous. The thing about being on SOT for almost four years is using a pseudonym that is a brand name…but progressively over four years, attending various functions, seminars, conferences etc….a lot of people I have engaged with, have seen behind the FJH name…not a pretty sight.
    So its hardly a big deal.
    You show some irritation that there are snide comments about PFC here on Slugger.
    I cant fully agree. PFC is seemingly well regarded on Slugger. Along with some other broadly similar organisations, events are notified and largely ignored…except by “Turgon” and myself.
    Usually these threads dont have much longevity and snide comments are usually ignored.
    So fair play to you Jenny for actually commenting.
    but as “Turgon” says there is a certain feeling of “entitlement”….that PFC is above criticism.
    But thats the heart of the problem.
    Politicians pushing a Sinn Fein, UUP, SDLP and DUP agenda on here are liable to be criticised and some of it likely to be snide.
    I dont think Platform for Change can expect better.

  • Comrade Stalin


    I mean you no harm at all but you can’t get upset when a bunch of misinformed people commenting from the safety of anonymity behind their keyboards administer a slagging.

    Please don’t try to play the victim card by inviting people to send you hate mail. There are people out there in public life who dealing with problems more serious than hate mail.

    There are some people around here who practically thrive on bitterness and have absolutely no shame in declaring in public that it’s a waste of time trying to do things like improve community relations. You will not be able to persuade everyone, and it’s a waste of time to even try.

  • David Crookes

    What follows is addressed to everyone who stands on a platform, and not to Jenny, who should be thanked for her courageous posting..

    f you stand on a platform, and invite the media to take note, you are asking for attention. If some of the attention that you receive turns out to be unfriendly, you have to be robust enough to deal with it.

    Some of us who don’t cultivate the safety of anonymity get gubbed on Slugger every so often. That’s part of the price that we pay for getting our opinions read by other people.

    I know it’s tough, but that’s how life works. To put your head above the parapet is to enter the world of flying tomatoes.

    Vigorous debate can be truly informative. On a good day, when I come out with a lot of wild nonsense, another Sluggerite gubs me, and I learn something.

  • Mc Slaggart


    “Alliance, Green Party, PUP, SDLP and UUP were all present at the launch and listed as signatories to the platform.”

    An interesting list of signatories but that is not clarifying the criteria used by the pfc criteria “accommodating and progressive political parties”

    If all those parties meet the pfc criteria then I must have missed the day that the UUP was “eager to help or please” or stopped “wishing to maintain things as they are”

  • Charles_Gould

    Mr Crookes

    What you say may be true, but it does not excuse uncivil and mean spirited posts or comments.

  • David Crookes

    Thanks, Charles. People who can deal merrily with mean-spirited incivility earn the right to be heard.

  • Charles_Gould

    Mr Crookes
    Maybe. But again that does not excuse or justify incivility or mean spirited posts.

  • Much as I love a good old fashioned row on Slugger , and this was a good one, certain constructed personalities have been unveiled on this thread. There is a lot to be said for consistency