Trimble appoints McMichael and Monteith
BY LAURA FRIEL
Hypocrisy is no stranger to David Trimble and last week was to be
no exception as the First Minister announced his choice of
candidates to sit on the Civil Forum. Gary McMichael, leader of
the UDP - the political voice of the UDA which is currently
engaged in a bloody feud with another loyalist terror grouping,
the UVF - was Trimble's first choice.
The second nomination selected by the First Minister was Richard
Monteith. A solicitor with a controversial record, Monteith was
jailed for his part in Orange protests over Drumcree in 1998. He
was fined £250 for blocking Gilford Road in Lurgan. This is not
the first time Trimble's name has been linked to Montieth.
In his book ``The Committee'', documentary film maker and author
Sean McPhilemy, named both men as part of a conspiracy to murder.
During a recent libel case taken against McPhilemy by the Sunday
Times, both Trimble and Montieth appeared as witnesses. McPhilemy
retracted some of his allegations during the trial, including
those against David Trimble, but the wider case against McPhilemy
was rejected by the court.
Established as part of the Good Friday Agreement, the Civic Forum
is to act as a consultative body on social, economic and cultural
issues. Nominations, to represent ten sectors as well as six
nominees, directly selected by the First and Deputy Ministers,
were announced last Monday. As well as directly appointing three
people each, all 60 successful appointees were selected by
Trimble and Mallon.
The announcement of the names of the 60 people successfully
selected to the forum provoked immediate controversy, centred on
the First Minister. While nationalists were reeling from the
blatancy of Trimble's personal choices, the unionist No Camp was
criticising the UUP leader - for not including a leading member
of the Orange Order.
Commenting on his appointment, UDP leader Gary McMichael rejected
claims that his nomination by the First Minister was an effort to
bring his party in from the cold. He said he had not accepted it
on that basis but because he believed ``working class people need
authentic grassroots voices in there''.
Of course no one knows Trimble's reasons for nominating McMichael
but one thing's for sure, it's not because he recognises the
value of listening to ``authentic working class voices,''
otherwise, as their local MP, Trimble wouldn't have refused to
meet the Garvaghy Road residents.
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin's Mary Nelis, in raising the party's
concerns about the Civic Forum, said she hoped that ``those
appointed will overcome the shortcomings of the process, which
places the responsibility for the Civic Forum within the office
of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister, and that
they work towards creating inclusive democracy, transparency and
Nelis was critical of the fact that those appointed did not,
``fully represent grass roots organisations''.
``There is an emphasis on the `great and the good' and an over
reliance on those whose names surface on many of the quangos that
exist in the North''.
During the all party deliberations on the Civic Forum, Sinn Féin
flagged up a number of concerns around the question of the format
of the Forum and wanted to broaden out the representation on the
Forum as well as it's remit.
Sinn Féin also wanted the nominating bodies to be more
representative of the wider society.
For instance, there are only two people representing `victims'
groups while the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister
was able to nominate six people.
``Properly addressed, these issues have the potential to make the
Civic Forum truly representative of civil society and a bridge
between the community and the Assembly. We stated then that the
proposed body could fall short of addressing the democratic
defecits and the effect on society of unionist and British
misrule over the past 80 years since partition'', concluded Nelis.