Dympna McGlade is a Slugger reader from Glengormley
As we enter 2022, threats of collapsing the Northern Ireland Government leave us uncertain about the future. We may have differing views on the whys and wherefores of this action, and we can only guess what governance arrangements will be in place should it happen.
The only common denominator in this scenario is that we have been here before, five times before! The last suspension lasted an amazing three years!
The impact of such actions is that all MLA positions become vacant and no plenary or committee activity takes place. This results in new laws not being passed in crucial areas such as health and human services, education, agriculture, social security, employment and skills, economic development, environmental issues (including planning) and transport. It also means budgets cannot be set, which can lead to departments without a legal basis on which to continue spending and investing in our much needed public services. In addition, support and surveillance will not be offered to the Departments in the provision of public services.
Meanwhile, the Covid-19 pandemic has caused one of the worst economic and social downturns we have ever experienced. Added to this is the Brexit crisis and its impact on our fragile peace process. The government’s eye seems to be off the goal of reconciliation and building a united multicultural society. His other eye may be closed to the growing divisions created by Brexit, which has led to street violence, the rise of paramilitary force, the breakdown of North/South relations and the opening of wounds in which so many have invested. time and money to heal.
Our economy and our society in general have taken a negative nosedive and it will take years of focused dedication and resources to repair. We face a very uncertain future.
Yet at a time when we must stand together to seize the opportunity to re-imagine a better future for all, politicians are threatening to collapse the institutions needed to achieve this, focusing instead on constitutional issues rather than healing the damage caused by the pandemic and Brexit.
Most people here are in favor of a shared, equitable, peaceful, safe and prosperous society where future generations can live, work, be educated and socialize without fear of discrimination or alienation. How can this be fulfilled if we have no government?
In the event of another government collapse, civil society organizations must seize the opportunity this vacuum creates and take responsibility for building a cross-community and cross-sectoral platform dedicated to making meaningful progress towards a genuinely equitable, just, inclusive and shared world. and sustainable. future.
If the Assembly collapses for the sixth time, we need to have a Plan B ready and waiting to move away from crisis politics and its negative impact on society and start focusing on delivering good quality, fit-for-purpose public services.
Therefore, in the event of another collapse, the voluntary/community sector must be ready and waiting to step forward and fill the void by collectively producing a plan to assist in monitoring the fulfillment of government responsibilities to ensure that society improves rather than declines.
There are many valid and good reasons why the voluntary/community sector should step forward to fill this potential gap left by an absentee government and volumes of supporting research evidence to back it up:
- The sector has made significant contributions to the achievement of the Executive’s strategic goals and priorities. Plays an important role in environmental, social, advocacy and human rights work and promotes social and/or political change in the Northern Ireland Executive key areas of responsibility:
- Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs
- The sector has experience in putting resources, time and effort into improving services and promoting citizen participation with decision makers. And, based on its strong links with the community and understanding of the history and needs of communities, the sector tends to be able to act faster than the government.
- The sector effectively contributes to enabling political progress, conflict resolution/reconciliation and peace building (long before the Good Friday Agreement).
Because the sector is highly supervised and audited by the government, it must be assumed that it operates professionally and is trusted by the government. This is recognized in the Cagreement between the Community and Voluntary Sector and the Government of Northern Ireland (2011). The Concordat underpins a shared vision between the Government and the voluntary/community sector to work together as social partners to build a participatory, peaceful, equitable and inclusive community in Northern Ireland. In the Settlement Agreement section, Item 8 says:
‘The Concordat will enhance the engagement of the Government and the Voluntary/community sector in policy development and implementation. This commitment will contribute both to the fulfillment of the objectives of the “Program for the Government” and to the development of a dynamic civil society. Working together effectively will, for example, help build safer and sustainable communities, ensure a well-protected and valued environment, contribute to economic growth, address poverty, disadvantage and inequality, and help promote health. and well-being.’
Voluntary/community sector organizations continue to address issues in support of the public good and often act as proxy for societal and stakeholder concerns as they tend to have a high degree of public trust. They are non-profit organizations that are independent of government influence (although they may receive government financing). This makes them excellent candidates to step into the shoes of an absentee government to help ensure quality of life for all citizens, for example.
- Supervision and provision of services.
- advising on setting budgets in line with the Government Program
- decision-making in collaboration with public officials
- Liaison between government departments and civil society
- monitor and promote the peace process.
All of this is a huge request and may be dismissed by those who feel threatened by it (especially some political parties). However, it must be discussed now before another crisis occurs. Or, does anyone else have a better plan B?
This is an invited space that provides a platform for new writers, either as a one-off event or as a prelude to becoming part of the regular Slugger team.