Lo says reformed Civic Forum has role to play

South Belfast Alliance MLA Anna Lo has stated that the Civic Forum did not live up to expectations but said that is should be reformed as opposed to scrapped. She is speaking on the issue in the Assembly today.

Anna Lo said: “Alliance recognizes that the Civic Forum did not perform as expected, but we would prefer to reform rather than abandon it. It’s important to note that the Forum is a requirement of the Agreement to engage wider civic society.

“The engagement of those in wider society, with a diverse range of expertise continues to be of value to the Stormont governance. It offers a process for enriching, not diminishing, traditional representative democracy.

“The Civic Forum cannot easily be judged in terms of its past effectiveness, based on the intervening period, as it was to a large degree a hostage to the political process during this time. Each suspension of the Assembly put the Forum into suspension, creating long periods of inactivity and drift, and since the latest round of devolution there has been real uncertainty about its future.

“If the Civic Forum is to continue in its current form then its role and remit must be more clearly identified. Not only is clarity important in terms of justifying the expenditure associated with the Forum but also in terms of justifying to individual members of the Forum the time commitment which they would be required to give.

“The Civic Forum should not be a lobbying body nor should it act as a consultative channel as there are already well established relationships between the Assembly and the voluntary sector. However, the Civic Forum can provide a more joined up and cross-cutting approach in dealing with complex social issues such as poverty, community relations, environmental sustainability.

“In terms of the make-up of the Forum, it should be as broad-based as possible. This could be achieved through having nominees from different sectors and other positions filled by an open application process. Alliance would have real concerns that any appearance of political patronage could have a negative impact on the dynamics of the Forum and potentially undermine public confidence in it.

“In conclusion Alliance would support an effective Civic Forum working in partnership with the Assembly, but a new approach is needed to ensure such a Forum provides value for money.”


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