Republican News · Thursday 5 October 1999

[An Phoblacht]

Trimble appoints McMichael and Monteith


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 accountability''.

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.

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