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.