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20 February 2015
The Good Friday Agreement

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Governance
Civic forum
     
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The First and Deputy First Ministers announced the membership of the Forum on 25 September 2000. Chris Gibson who has been involved in the Confederation of British Industry and the Industrial Development Board was appointed the Forum Chairman for a three-year period. Forum members will appoint two vice-chairs. The Office of the First and Deputy First Minister is responsible for the forum and will provide its administrative, secretarial and other operating expenses including members' expenses and consultancy fees.  
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Image of the first meeting of the Civic Forum at the Waterfront Hall, Belfast, 9 October 2000
The first meeting of the Civic Forum at the Waterfront Hall, Belfast, 9 October 2000
The inaugural meeting of the Forum took place at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast on 9 October 2000. Anti-Agreement unionists who are opposed to the Forum criticised it for not fairly representing their views. Forum membership was also criticised by the Women's Coalition who felt it did not meet the degree of gender balance promised by the Agreement. Only 22 of the 60 members are women.

The Forum will meet four times a year at different locations around Northern Ireland. Its first task is to present the Assembly with guidelines on how it plans to operate. At the inaugural meeting, Chairman Chris Gibson said that university professors, farmers, athletes, Protestant pastors and Catholic priests would be given a blank sheet of paper and 100 days to draw up a strategy. The Forum must report back to the Assembly every twelve months.

 
Key Newspaper Articles
Forum is vital to peace process
Forum row over Irish translation service
     
The Good Friday Agreement's inclusion of civil society into the new political structures in Northern Ireland through the Civic Forum combines the politics of representation with the politics of participation. This new model of governance captured the public imagination and generated hundreds of unsolicited submissions.  
Key Academic Opinions
A view from the Ulster People's College
The voluntary sector perspective
     
Many elected politicians, however, are reluctant to welcome the role the Agreement has given civil society. This stems from the view that democracy belongs to politicians whose power is validated by the "will of the people" every four or five years. But as society becomes more complex the concept of representative democracy is being challenged by the more inclusive concept of participatory democracy. An essential element of this approach to governance is the social partnership model pioneered by the European Union.  
Key Academic Opinions
Considering Social Dialogue
Key Newspaper Articles
Some remain aloof
Civic forum must not be a rubber stamp
Minority proposal for Forum
   
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