McBride: “our clarion call is lucid and compelling: ‘Make It Work’!”

With the threat of Stormont collapsing gaining more headlines in our papers, a group called Make it Work has emerged to pressure civil society into engaging positively with the political process. Writing for Slugger, Peter McBride, Chair of ‘Make It Work’ argues for a positive approach towards our devolved administration.

Why would we have to mount a campaign to make this place work? That sums up the challenge perfectly – it isn’t working.

Our politicians have made enormous progress since the conflict, of course they have; political violence, murder and assassinations have all but been eliminated. Not completely, but nearly.

But they need to finish the job, to create the conditions for stability, growth and participative democracy. The governments also have an important role, as conveners of,  and contributors to the Talks process, and as guarantors of the Belfast / Good Friday, St Andrews and Hillsborough Agreements – they must apply brainpower and brawn in various formats to ensure serious work is achieved.

Remarkably, the ‘ugly scaffolding’ around the edifices of the institutions has served us well; it has created political stability, albeit to the point of gridlock. Just look at the politics of Scotland, Wales, England, Ireland and the UK and you can observe their volatility, alienation, dizzying speed and constant change! We might reflect on the benefits of this certainty, as we redouble our efforts to improve the practice of government.

How might this be achieved?

First, we must sweep away the cynicism – it’s too easy to carp and complain from the side-lines; that’s why the spontaneous movement of ‘Make it Work’ came into being, born of a passion for improvement.

Second, we must re-engage with the politicians and the government(s); they have a lonely, or at least, disconnected time, in many ways, exercising power in a kind of vacuum, often unsupported by party structures, strong branches, animated conferences and robust evidence-led debate; that’s where Make it Work hopes to help channel some of those frustrations, but also the raft of creative ideas and innovative solutions into the Talks process and the accompanying discourse in civil society – that’s what makes up participative democracy. We respect electoral democracy too, of course.

Third, we must find ways for ordinary people and groups, trades unions and workplaces, businesses and clubs, societies and community groups to find their voice. So far, we have encountered anger, frustration and scepticism about our chances of success, but also passion and energy to build a better future.

Our young people’s volunteers have been asking ‘Why Make it Work?’ and posting the responses online @MakeItWorkToday – that cheers me up every day, as I see enthusiasm and eagerness, to counter the jaded voices of those of us who are weary with stasis.

Fourth, we must critique what our politicians are doing and saying; likewise the governments, the US and the EU. This isn’t just a cheer-leading campaign, however important that function is to encourage our decision-makers to make bold progress – it will have content, too; as we talk to groups ‘out there’, we are hearing their concerns and their aspirations for a better future. We hope to give expression to those voices and to raise the level of political and policy debate – that is the duty of all active citizens. We relish the opportunity.

Fifth, and finally, we want to build a better place, a fully functioning democracy where voters and citizens can have their hopes and fears met and challenged, a safer, prosperous society where the balance between economic growth and social cohesion can be managed sustainably.

That’s why our clarion call is lucid and compelling: ‘Make It Work’!

This is a guest slot to give a platform for new writers either as a one off, or a prelude to becoming part of the regular Slugger team.

  • chrisjones2

    I am sorry but this is just Utopian.We have a broken system which is designed to be dysfunctional and where those who might change it have vested sectarian political and financial advantages in not doing so. It wont change because of this and because m,any of the political class are HAPPY that its that way as it makes their job secure and they know (or want to know) no better

    The best way forward is for the rest of us just to ignore them

  • chrisjones2

    I forgot to mention – we need to realize that WE don’t really need them and get them to realize that too

  • Great. Another emotional PR pitch with absolutely no ideas on the ‘how’. Not that some of our politicians haven’t been guilty of relying on emotional positives rather than the practical realities of, well, making things work up at Stormont. Of course, there’s always funding stream for this sort of campaign, and that seems to be a tap that keeps on working.

  • delphindelphin

    Sorry, but this is whistling in the dark. Our system of government is fundamentally flawed. To quote Brian Walker(from another thread):

    The issue is far broader and goes to the heart of the Executive system which lacks the sort of central authority that proper collective responsibility provides. Until or unless this evolves , we will have ineffective regional government – a situation of divide, and fail to rule.

  • Rapunsell

    I share your view that the weakness with this campaign is that its lowest common denominator hand wringing stuff and has now ideas on how to make it work. Doubt that there’s any funding for this sort of campaign – who would fund it? I believe that its self financed. I think the challenge is to link the campaign to a set of clear actions to which various civil society groups and the public could sign up to and perhaps one such set of actions might be found in a campaign for more open government – that could usefully focus on actions relating to freedom of information and political donations amongst other ideas around data and policy making and potentially be a powerful tool for change

  • Sir Rantsalot

    Have to agree with the others here. The sentiment is great, but we’ve heard it all before. I’m not knocking you or people who want to do something positive. But people are long past this stage of just calling for the right things etc. They are looking for detailed proposals and plans on how to achieve their target changes. Most of the people in politics are incompetent and would not last a week in a private company. This is probably a large factor in the lack of any actions coming from the NI government. We need competent people to come with a project plan, not calls for someone else to do something.

  • Perhaps you are ring. It seems to be running out of Stratagem’s office, a bastion of philanthropy.

  • honest joe

    CLOSE STORMONT!. Then wait and see what happens. Stormont doesn’t deliver ANYTHING. if you get a job and consistently perform to the level our MLAs perform. YOU WILL GET SACKED! Get rid of them NOW!

  • chrisjones2

    “We need competent people”

    But the image of politics is so bad no-one competent would get involved.Its a self perpetuating mess.

    Fancy spending your day negotiating with our finest MLAs listening to bigotry dressed as policy and high minded principle?. Life on the dole orflipping burgers would be infinitely better – and intellectually more challening

  • chrisjones2

    Is there anyone who things it can be fixed?

  • That should be ‘right’. Not sure where the ring came from.

  • Chris Browne

    Who is the carping comment aimed at?

  • Croiteir

    When I read/hear this I get a Pete Townsend Moment, who are you?

  • QuintinOliver

    Why, thanks, TheDissenter… Much obliged!

  • QuintinOliver

    ‘Whistling in the dark’, ‘Utopian’, ’emotional’… where have I heard those rejoinders before? Well, every day since I returned here in 1984 (my job interview was the day of the Brighton bomb).
    Have we built Utopia in 30 years? No, but it’s not the dystopia of 1984, and it’s surely better than it was. But, any campaign has to address the future, not just offer benchmarks against the past; ‘Make It Work’ as a topical demand invites an immediate reaction, then leading to an opening for a future vision.

    If that’s emotional, then sign me up!