Civil Society …The Enemy Within

Interesting SDLP event tomorrow night.

Civil Society…I am not a big fan.

But a panel that is chaired by Alasdair McDonnell MP includes Dr Deirdre Heenan from the University of Ulster, Ryan Feeney from the GAA, Brendan Mulgrew, PR guy who was (I think) Special Advisor to former SDLP Minister, Sean Farren ….and Dr David McCann, Deputy Editor of Slugger O’Toole.


I should point out that David is standing in for Mick Fealty who has recently moved home. We all have been thru that trauma and wish Mick a lot of happy years in his new new home.

But isnt it odd that SDLP are prepared to listen to the views of Slugger? It is not as if Slugger has been unduly supportive of the views of SDLP. And while I understand that Mick and David are as entitled to have a view on the notion of Civic Society as the rest of us, I dont understand that Slugger, which claims to have no agenda, can have an editorial stance.

Platform for Change is an organisation that has advocated this kinda thing. And it failed. And I am glad they failed.

At heart, I am a democrat. I believe in the ballot box. I respect the mandate of all of the MLAs regardless of their Party affiliation. They at least put their views before the electorate and the electorate sent them to Stormont.

As a SDLP member, I am not exactly thrilled with the choices the electorate have made.

But there are effectively two groups that are disenchanted with Politics….one is the so-called Underclass, patronised by academics …young teens alleged to be glue-sniffing in East Belfast or stealing cars in West Belfast. We are told…rightly…that this Underclass (and I hate that word) should be brought into Politics.j

I suggest there is a second group that is disenchanted with Politics. An Overclass in South Belfast and North Down. They are too posh to vote. And too smart to allow themselves to be sidelined by not actually being elected.

So they allign themselves with the notion of Civic Society. Civic Society ….”organisations”, charities, NGOs …do they deserve a special role in Politics?

Why is it that we make no compromise for the “Underclass” but we need to facilitate the “Overclass”? Well, the Overclass …Civic Society…is articulate and vocal.

It strikes me that SDLP is a decent political party that has the right instincts …advocating for (among others) the jobless, the disabled, low paid workers, victims of violence, the “Third World”, Human Rights, migrants etc. Many groups in Civic Society advocate for these and other groups and are happy enough to use SDLP MLAs or show up at SDLP events and a photo opportunity in the “Ulster Tatler”.

Yet I see no group actually saying “Vote SDLP….they did the people we represent a favour”.

Civic Society does not do Recipocracy.

Am I being harsh? Yes….I should make a distinction between Organisations that do a lot of good for our community….and the highly visible and vocal spokespersons for the Organisations. Some are merely adding a reference to their “Linked-In” profile.

Make no mistake ….setting up a forum for Civic Society does not really empower Organisations and their rank and file members. Rank and file members do not get MBEs, get appointed to Quangos and get to eat the vol-au-vents at the Gallery in Stormont. Nor do the rank and file members of these organisations get to sip white wine at the United States Consulate on 4th July or nibble cucumber sandwiches with Mrs Elizabeth Windsor at a Hillsborough garden party.

And as you wait for your appointment at the X Ray Department at the Royal Victoria Hospital, you will not see the rank and file members of these organisations in photographs in the Ulster Tatler.

The most curious thing about Civic Society is the “Freemasonry” of mutual support.

It will be interesting to see how many of the usual suspcts show up tomorrow night.

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6 Responses to Civil Society …The Enemy Within

  1. b.brannigan says:

    Hello James FitzI think Brendan also worked as Joe Hendron’s Westminster assistant Best wishesBernard  (ex Westie  like yourself )

    Sent from my Samsung device

  2. zig70 says:

    I can’t help feeling that the SDLP are distracted by the metrosexual civic society media idea of what a moderate political party in the north should be when they would probably be better looking to the small c socially conservative, politically left catholics that voted for them in the past. The older generation are more likely to get out and vote for them again.

    • I wwill be blogging about tonight tomorrow. i am just in the door and I am getting too old for this lark.
      To be honest Zig….you said it better than I can say it. Its just as you call it.
      But when I come to blog about it, I will make it more complicated than it acually is. 🙂

  3. What happens when you get ghettoized into the minority is that you have to broaden your appeal, David Ervine did it with loyalism, Naomi Long did it with Allianceism, the DUP did it with Arlene Foster/Jeffery Donaldson, and Sinn Féin did it with a bunch of socially mobile republican voters who wouldn’t have voted up until then, Mike Nesbitt is doing it with jingoism to the anti-GFA lot.

    Every minority needs to expand to get a majority into an electable position even the malcontent garden centre middle classes that so called Civic Society represent, and events like these do somewhat bring people out of their comfort zones. I like to hear the views from the panel, Deirde Hennan was by far the most notable and all that time on The View’s Commentator’s corner pales in comparison to her passion last night.

    Expanding the “base” is the common problem of both the SDLP and the Civic Community lot.

    • Kevin, to some extent Civil Society is suffering from a sense of Entitlement that nice people like themselves are not in charge and they must defer to Ministers who are anti-intellectual zealots (DUP) or linked to paramilitary activity (SF).
      Yet they pander to DUP-SF….and smile for the camera when the Ulster Tatler photographer shows up.
      Would Civic Society support SDLP?
      As SDLP voted YES yesterday, is there any prominent figure in LGBT community who will reciprocate by saying “vote SDLP” and as the Arts community petition Stormont today, and SDLP support them, will anybody in the Arts community reciprocate?
      Of course, we must support what is right….but I think we make it too easy for Civil Society.

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