The Myth Of “Civic Society”

One of the great myths of the Peace Process, the Good Friday Agreement and the Conflict Resolutionists for fifteen years has been that there is something called CIVIC SOCIETY.
As Politicians dont really like the notion…as it tends to undermine rather than “enhance” the political process, any concept of a Civic Forum has been quietly shelved.
Of course that is par for the course. Dealing with the Past,Victims, Bill of Rights, Irish Language Act…all foreseen in the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 and all very obviously shelved.
The only people who believe in Civic Society are the people who think they are part of it. Sadly they are helped in the delusion by people who really should know better. Civic Society is politics outside the “conventional frame” …people in Trade Unions, local and national groups that could not get elected but feel a kind of entitlement to be in “power”.
As a Democrat…I oppose them.
There are two groups of people who have detached themselves from the political process. One is a recognisable UNDERCLASS living almost in a feral fashion,drinking Buckfast, sniffing glue and involved in petty crime in socially deprived areas.
The second group is the OVERCLASS….middle class people, too posh to vote in the squalid sectarian cess pit of Norn Iron but holding a bizarre belief in their intelligence and/or wealth entitles them to privelege.

They have modelled themselves as CIVIC SOCIETY. Of course the Good Friday Agreement stated that there would be a CIVIC FORUM where people outside “normal” politics would meet and advise our political leaders.
Thankfully the Intelligensia were not smart enough to realise that this was just a part of the Creative Ambiguity that is the central plank in the Peace Process. No politician was ever likely to agree to it.
Of course, I am no great lover of the DUP-Sinn Fein dominated Executive which has over-indulged the Alliance Party and sought to marginalise UUP and SDLP. DUP and Sinn Fein intend to help each other stay in power.
We live as Mark Durkan (the former SDLP Leader put it) in a one party state with an Orange and Green wing.
But whether we like it or not, politicians are actually elected.
What exactly would the Civic Forum be …other than an unelected second chamber filled with the usual suspects from the Golden Halo of Do-Goodery. Far too many of them in Norn Iron already, whinging about how there is no “proper” politics in Norn Iron….while tucking into the vol-au-vents at any event hosted by a DUP or Sinn Fein Minister in the Long Gallery at Stormont.
Who would the Civic Forum actually be other than people drawn from the “voluntary” sector?…a bloated sector in Norn Iron.
The Churches.
Well ALL of the Churches enjoy the separation of Church and State. GOD and Mammon and all that. No institutional Church…while committed to the right “faith” values…will betray the views of the people in the pews.
While it is fashionable for Conflict Resolutionists to denounce apparent inaction of institutional churches and praise individual maverick churchmen…the simple fact is that church-goers are drawn from communities, inner city and suburban Belfast, small towns and villages across Norn Iron.
I know a lot of Catholic churchmen. Some are apolitical. The vast majority are SDLP and Sinn Fein voters. None that I know vote Alliance.
The Church of Ireland, reflecting their English cousins tends to be UUP or broadly unionist.
Presbyterians view DUP with suspicion but the balance of probability is that they vote across the unionist spectrum.
Trade Unions…the most cowardly of all organisations in Norn Iron.They shamelessly protected the interests of their (Protestant) members in Belfast industry over the interests of civil rights such as fair employment. Of course the same thing happened in car factories in the English West Midlands where shop stewards operated colour bars to placate their racist members. Not exactly the International Brotherhood of Man.
Because of Norn Irons reality that socialist parties (SDLP and Sinn Fein) are “nationalist” and the capitalist parties (DUP and UUP) are “unionist”, trade union leaders dare not be seen to support nationalism….so they join Labour (NI) or the Workers Party….essentially non-parties without any hope of election….but it makes them look good.
A “socialist” party which cannot get elected is a luxury that working class people cannot afford. Of course SDLP…sister party to both Irish Labour Party and British Labour Party is the “natural” Labour Party in Norn Iron but the trade unions here will do absolutely nothing to help their fellow socialists…but of course they will shamelessly lobby the SDLP. In a word….HYPOCRITES.
Ah Women…they are another group that Conflict Resolutionists want to promote. But 52% of Norn Iron are female. For the most part …they vote. And they vote DUP, Sinn Fein, SDLP, UUP, Alliance, TUV and Green. Is there something unique that a Womans Group be given a place in the Forum.
Are they more representative than….
Ruth Patterson DUP, Arlene Foster DUP, Michelle O’Neill SF, Sue Ramsey SF, Margaret Ritchie SDLP, Dolores Kelly SDLP, Joanne Dobson UUP etc.
Is Pro Equal Marriage, Alliance MLA, Anna Lo, more or less representative than her anti Equal Marriage colleague Judith Cochrane?
Are the Pro-Life women praying outside the Marie Stopes Clinic more or less representative of ” women” than the Pro-Choice women inside it?
Do universities have a part to play in the Forum?
NO …ABSOLUTELY NOT.
Until 1969… Queens University Belfast graduates elected FOUR members to the Stormont Parliament. It was rightly considered a democratic advance when these seats were abolished. Can people really consider it a good thing that representatives from QUB and Univ of Ulster sit in a second chamber (of sorts)?
But how would Universities decide who represents them?
When was the last time a QUB academic did anything radical?
Certainly in 2008 to mark the fortieth anniversary of the Civil Rights movement at Queens University…QUB, with absolutely no sense of shame or irony congratulated itself on its achievements.
Unless my recollection is faulty, I dont recall that QUB was at the forefront of Civil Rights.
We do of course have the positive example of Tyrone Guthrie, Anglo-Irish Man of Letters, theatre director who became Chancellor of QUB in or around 1960. Unionists love one of our own as Guthrie was thought to be..who makes an impact on the world stage… Guthrie was an academic Rory McIlroy and actually defeated the “Duke of Abercorn to become Chancellor.
Unfortunately it turned out that Guthrie was actually a nationalist and publicly called for the border to be abolished. That didnt go down well…but in July 1969, he was wheeled out on BBC Norn Iron to lecture the people of Norn Iron…a very bizarre moment when the Chancellor of the (then) only university REPRIMANDED people …to catch themselves on before it was too late.
Just a month later…the Troubles began.
Guthrie could not bring himself to do “something” for Norn Irons Fiftieth Anniversary (1971) but basically he told Stormont “over my dead body”….which was prophetic….he did actually die in 1971.
But what exactly has any Queens University and other University figures done since then.
They have avoided Politics but not avoided the vol au vents.
Rick, Deirdre, Pete and Dom …more likely to be on youtube or TV or at any university in the world talking about Conflict Resolution…exchanging papers, writing the books. But is it a serious contribution deserving of a place in a Civic Forum? No.

Civic Forum…daft idea.

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49 Responses to The Myth Of “Civic Society”

  1. bangordub says:

    Interesting article.
    Of course down South there is an argument and upcoming referendum regarding the Seanad where of course a number of members are directly elected by the main Universities.
    The implication is the innate superior intellect of the academic world.
    Anathema I would have thought in a Republic.
    Perhaps that is what I like about the bloggerati, all are equal and CV’s are irrelevant.

  2. Fear Feirsteach says:

    That was a top quality, entertaining rant, fitz. I hope you enjoyed writing it as much as I enjoyed reading it.

  3. Civic Society? Another name for those unable to make it in some line of work or specialty, right? It’s called blagging it and that’s what these guys do. They hate the glare of the public on their activities because we in the main disapprove and yet they feel a certain entitlement, that they are above the fray. If something needed doing these are the last people I would ever call on as they are the weak willed, those who have no spirit for a fight, I despise them totally…

  4. Jake says:

    Do you honestly believe Sinn Fein. And the SDLP are Socialist parties????

    • Yes I do.
      So do most reasonable people.
      Occasionally some asshats from the Workers (sic) Party, Labour NI, or other unelectable types dispute that but those people are not to be taken seriously. They dont even take themselves seriously.

  5. Jake says:

    So an overtly fascist party and a green Conservative party are socialist?As a life long socialist I find this quite bewildering.No doubt you willjustify your argument,but it leaves a really bad taste in ones mouth.

  6. Jake says:

    Please base your response on a ideology rather than a religious one.

  7. Jake says:

    I try to be reasonable.

  8. Derek says:

    I’m a fan of civic society in general having seen it operate for the benefit of a place during my time in East Timor. However, the Civic Forum seems a spectacular waste of money. I like David Crookes comment on Slugger that it is an “Alliance-Party-at-prayer icing-layer of sectarianism-condemners to the present Stormont cake”.

    • Thats a good quote.
      I wish I had said it.
      but theres more to it than that.
      If it was just the usual do-gooders of the Golden Halo, they would be at least (SOME!) churchy and altruistic.
      But there is a more sinister element of the usual suspects on the fringe of politics who would seize on it as an opportunity for their personal advancement.
      Not that I can think of any people like that. Er obviously.

  9. well said – there is a plethora of professional slabberers here, they are trotted out on all the local news and current affairs programs and are presented as all-knowing guru’s – in fact they are just know alls. And you know what they are going to condemn, Catholic schools, religion – especially Catholicism, working class yobs, bad vol au vents. I loathe them.

  10. Jake says:

    So much for free speech.

  11. Jake says:

    I wasn’t muzzled.I was told to toe the part line or be damned.Jeez! I’ll stick to real socialism.Good luck with Yours.

    • What party line was that Jake? I can wait while you provide us the evidence for this, go on and if you wouldn’t mind, please leave the epic side order of mopery at the door, but don’t take this as me wanting to encumbrance your free speech, I and others just believe that while people have a right to write crap they can also be challenged on the crap they write.

      Oh, and if by ‘real socialism’ I take it you mean the dick heads selling poorly printed and written copies of the Socialist Worker, right? Power to the People mate!

      • I think Jake is one of those people who believes that if more than ten people vote for a “socialist” party….it loses the claim to be socialist.

        Jakes world:
        Socialist Party ….no votes.
        Not a Socialist Party (SDLP Sinn Fein)…votes.

        The biggest betrayers of the working class are socialist parties that dont want elected.
        hypocrites.
        And a luxury that working class people cant afford.

      • Couldn’t agree more.

        I have a mate who is a member of the Greens in the North, and tbh, I do like him and his strong beliefs, but I have said to him on more occasions than I could care to remember that what he does, his manner, his way of talking about voters by thinking they are ‘fucking stupid’ for not voting for or following his beliefs is rank arrogance and a vote killer. It is the talk of someone who thinks being uncompromising at all times is a good thing when in fact it can also clearly a handicap as politics and life in general requires compromise.

        I would have naturally been a socialist when I was younger, now I’m a social democrat (there is a bit of difference), but I have to laugh out loud at Champagne Socialists, these people are deluded in the extreme and unaware of the art of persuasion. The same with the Greens. In many ways, I would naturally support a lot of their policies and initiatives, however, they do come across as people who can in some instances seem to be lacking in charisma, naive, uncaring or unthinking about the consequences of their policies (or at least they do not take the time to explain these to the general public in such a way which is not patronising) and zealous too. This is not the best way to win votes as you do need some people in there who will appear to be compromising, whether we like it or not.

  12. Jake says:

    Sorry!! Meant party line.

  13. Jake says:

    Ah!! Defenders of “champagne socialism” pooh poohing champagne socialists.wonderful!!

  14. Jake says:

    The reason real socialists don’t get elected is that big line that runs across this island.Try to get an alternative and everyone heads back to the trenches!!

  15. Jake says:

    Fitz spent the best part of his article attacking liberals and academics,then he has the gall to use them as a response to my question.How can an overtly fascist party and Conservative green party be socialist? Well I’ll tell you!blah blah bloody blah!! Because academics say so!

  16. Jake says:

    Gentlemen!! as in life and on this blog I have failed miserably.Good luck looking down from you high horses.Excuse the pun!!May the sun shine on your back,a may you always have a shilling in your pocket!. goodbye and farewell Back to my other nine socialists.The real ones!! Enjoyed the craic.

  17. Jake says:

    On this of all days!Whatever you say Jake,say nothing.Seamus Heaney.

  18. Thanks for all of dem der comments Jake. On a completely unrelated matter I have an idea what the spam folder of an email account looks like ::)

  19. Jake says:

    I wan to to change the world for everyone,not just one section.As long as long held outdated mindsets are to the fore,this place won’t move on.SOLIDARITY!!!

    • When…the Workers Party (4 men and a cocker spaniel) get together with Labour NI (2 men, 2 women and a budgie) and Eamonn McCann….the result is NOT “Solidarity”…..the result is a joke. a bad one. and the victims are the working class.
      The people who are laughing loudest are the capitalists.

  20. Jake says:

    You mean the Armani wearing capitalists in west Belfast or the City types? Fitzits pointless debating this subject,you demean everyone you disagree with.I will hold on to my long held beliefs,you keep the putting the plebs in they’re place!! Just like the capitalists!! CLOSED!!!!!!!

  21. Jake says:

    What’s a spam folder??? No honestly!!!

  22. Jake says:

    Nah I prefer the autonomous collective clip.You should try the black knight clip.its so you!!

  23. Jake says:

    Even better!! What have the Romans ever done for us!!Check that clip,or are already on YouTube???

  24. Jake says:

    Hit a raw nerve comrade??BTW was out with my union comrades celebrating 50 years service of my FTO. The hotel where it was held was blown up by your socialist freinds during the troubles.

  25. Jake says:

    Chuikovs 62nd Army held the tractor factory during the battle of Stalingrad.It was the turning point of WW2.Guess what,they were Socialists.Real ones!!!

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