Assembly votes to reconvene Civic Forum


The Assembly voted to call for the reconvening of the Civic Forum, on 9 April 2013.

Conall McDevitt proposed the SDLP's motion calling on the first and deputy first ministers to reconvene the forum, which last met in 2002.

It was established by the Good Friday Agreement to give the first and deputy first ministers their "views on social, economic and cultural matters".

The agreement stated it was to "comprise representatives of the business, trades unions and voluntary sectors, and such other sectors as agreed by the first minister and deputy first minister".

Mr McDevitt praised the agreement on the eve of its 15th anniversary.

"Without it there would have been no beginning of a new beginning," he said.

He called for the re-establishment of the forum saying its aim was to "widen democracy and deepen participation".

Stephen Moutray of the DUP said he had brought a motion in 2009 opposing the return of the Civic Forum.

He said he had looked over his 2009 speech and "I could easily make the same one today. Nothing has changed".

Mr Moutray said the forum was "completely beyond revival".

"It expended little other than hot air," he said.

Megan Fearon of Sinn Fein said her party supported the SDLP motion. She said there appeared to be a growing sense of apathy in society.

Ms Fearon called for a Bill of Rights and a North South consultative forum.

The UUP leader, Mike Nesbitt, spoke of the need to reform government consultations and concluded that "the better way to do it is not to recall the Civic Forum".

Chris Lyttle of Alliance said he was reaffirming his party's commitment to participative democracy.

He called for a "shared future forum" to help draw up a shared future programme.

Mr Lyttle said this would be in the spirit of the Civic Forum envisaged in the motion.

The TUV's Jim Allister opposed the motion.

Referring to the DUP, he said there were some in the house who were "straining at the gnat of a civic forum but swallowed the camel of the Belfast Agreement".

Steven Agnew of the Green Party called for a constitutional convention to look at the future of the Belfast Agreement.

The motion was passed by 48 votes to 47.

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