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.
The next platform for change public event will be a panel discussion on the agenda of the Haass/O’Sullivan talks. It will take place on Monday November 25th from 7.30 to 9.30 in Dukes Hotel, University Street, Belfast. On the panel will be: Dominic Bryan (Institute of Irish Studies, QUB), Rev Lesley Carroll (Fortwilliam Presbyterian Church), Brandon Hamber (INCORE, UU), Maureen Hetherington (Towards Understanding and Healing), Peter Osborne (Parades Commission) and Orna Young (independent researcher). In the chair: Trevor Ringland (former Irish rugby international). As ever, our panellists have been asked only to make brief introductory remarks to maximise contributions from the floor. We hope to see you there!
platform for change is democratically controlled by its members and this is your chance to have your say on its future. We will decide at the agm among a menu of options for events during the year ahead and on the composition of the committee which runs the organisation day to day.
We will also have a panel of reconciliation practitioners discussing the document from the Office of the First Minister and Deputy Minister called ‘Together: A United Community’. Amid the clashes over all the visceral sectarian issues–flags, victims and dealing with the past–which have led to the Haas/O’Sullivan talks, what can this amount to on the ground? Can it presage a shared future? Michael Boyd (Irish Football Association), Jean Brown (Suffolk Lenadoon Interface Group), Eamonn Deane (Holywell Trust), Katie Hanlon (Ballynafeigh Community Development Association) and Alan McBride (WAVE) will discuss the policy and respond to questions and comments.
So come along to the Chinese Resource Centre, 1 Stranmillis Embankment, Belfast, on Saturday, 5 October. The meeting will run from 10am to 1pm. If you want to take part in the elections to the committee–or put your name forward to join it–please make sure you are a paid-up member.
For such a small place,Northern Ireland has a remarkably fragmented education system.
Apart from the moral arguments this raises about issues like sectarian and social segregation, it is also very inefficient, with five teacher-training deliverers and tens of thousands of empty places in schools. Can we have a more coherent system, which promotes intercultural dialogue and does not reproduce social class divisions so effectively? This will be the subject of a panel discussion in the Holiday Inn, Ormeau Avenue, Belfast, on Monday 24 June at 7:30.
Our panel will comprise: Shannon Dand and Karl Spence from WIMPS; Liam McCusker, formerly of Spirit of Enniskillen; Ciarnan Helferty, former president of QUB Students’ Union, and Nuala McAdams, current VP for Education; Mark Langhammer of the ATL and Gerry Murphy of the INTO, and Prof Alan Smith of the UNESCO Institute at UU. With such an unusual line-up of young people, students’ and teachers’ representatives and an independent expert, this should be a debate which injects fresh thinking.
The flags protests may eventually die down but the issue will have to be faced by all the 11 new local authorities in Northern Ireland after the reorganisation of the district councils, and it has been symptomatic of a wider failure of reconciliation.
The next platform for change event is a panel discussion on this challenge in the Holiday Inn, Ormeau Avenue, Belfast, on Monday 18 February at 7:30. Our panel will comprise three MLAs, John McCallister of the Ulster Unionist Party, Chris Lyttle, representing Alliance in East Belfast, and the Green Party leader Steven Agnew MLA. They will be joined by Claire Hanna of the SDLP and her fellow Belfast city councillor John Kyle. Trevor Ringland will speak on behalf of the Conservative Party and Rebecca Hall will represent Labour.
We are still awaiting confirmation from the DUP and Sinn Fein. Dr Dominic Bryan of Queen’s University will be an independent expert discussant. This event promises to be an exciting chance to look deeply at how we move forward on identity issues as a society.
The Northern Ireland Office has launched a consultation to look at measures to improve the operation of the assembly. The consultation is seeking views on double jobbing, the size of the Assembly, the length of Assembly terms and development of an Opposition. As a group platform for change has a vital voice to contribute to this debate; therefore we are planning a public meeting to discuss our submission to the consultation. Come along to the Chinese Resource Centre, Belfast at 10:00am on Saturday October 6.
There will be a debate around the need for reform–including our own Robin Wilson and Professor Colin Harvey from Queen’s University Belfast.
What is the future for politics is Northern Ireland? Is there a way to move on from voting based on communal identity? Can we create a political environment of dynamic ideas and comprehensive debate? These are the central issues that will be addressed in our next public event. A panel discussion ’From a politics if identity to a politics of ideas’ will take place in the Black Box, Hill Street, Belfast, at 7.30 on Monday, March 26. The discussion will be chaired by Julia Paul of the BBC and panel will be a compilation of political and civic voices: Tom Elliot (UUP Party Leader), Dolores Kelly (SDLP Deputy Leader), Steven Agnew (Green Party), Eamonn Deane (Holywell Trust), Anna Lo (Alliance), Tony McMullan (Co-op Party), Trevor Ringland (former rugby international) and Kellie Turtle (Belfast Feminist Network).
Always ready to discuss the toughest issues, platform for change will be holding its next meeting on the theme of Dealing with the Past on the evening of Monday, 5 September, at 7.30 in the Black Box, Hill Street, Belfast. The meeting will begin with a dramatic presentation by the women who comprise Theatre of Witness of their personal stories of Northern Ireland’s troubled past. This will stimulate a general discussion, amid the continuing controversy over the appointment of an individual convicted of the murder of a civilian as a ministerial special adviser and as a decade of centenaries approaches which will revisit the region’s formative violent years.
Our AGM was held on Saturday, 4 June from 10am-1pm at the Chinese Welfare Centre in Belfast. There, a group of 30 or more members discussed the future of the campaign based in part on officers’ reports and the results of our membership survey.
Elections to the committee were held, and followed by a debate on the question ‘where now for the middle ground?’, for which we were joined by John Barry (Green Party), David McClarty MLA (Independent Unionist), Conall McDevitt MLA (SDLP) and Chris Lyttle MLA (Alliance Party). A new PfC Action Plan is to follow!
As part of the campaign to promote our electoral agenda, platform for change organised a series of hustings at which members of the public could challenge a panel of candidates from different parties. Our main hustings took place at the Junction in Derry on April 11 and at the Crescent Arts Centre in Belfast on April 14. We also lent our support to a hustings on gender equality that was organised by the Belfast Feminist Network on April 6. Unfortunately our event which was planned for Armagh on April 18 had to be cancelled due to low attendance.
platform for change was pleased to accept an invitation to speak with members of the Belfast Feminist Network on Tuesday, 25 January, at the Belfast LGBT centre.
At the meeting, our representatives facilitated a lively discussion on feminist politics, and how feminist issues can become live issues in our assembly election campaign. We are looking forward to future conversation and joint action with the Feminist Network, and invite any comments or queries to firstname.lastname@example.org