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Civic Forum - News Release, 9 October 2000

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Devolved Government in Northern Ireland
Secretary Assembly Executive Departments Committees North- South British- Irish Conference Civic_Forum

Launch of the Civic Forum

Civic Forum - News Release, 9 October 2000



The Civic Forum is a demonstration of progressive developments in inclusive democracy and a positive example of partnership at work, First Minister, the Rt. Hon. David Trimble, MP, MLA and Deputy First Minister, Séamus Mallon, MP, MLA said today.

The Ministers were addressing the Forum's first meeting, which was chaired by Dr Chris Gibson OBE, at Belfast's Waterfront Hall.

Mr Trimble said: "The launch of the Civic Forum is an important aspect of the continuing implementation of the Belfast Agreement. It will provide this administration with the opportunity to seek the views of civic society on key issues, which will impact on all the people in our community. We look forward to the development of a constructive relationship between the Assembly, the Executive and the Forum. It will have an opportunity to share its experiences and views with the new legislature and policy makers in Northern Ireland.

"We are pleased to see the wide range of people that the Forum has assembled, representing a diversity of views. This will be one of its many strengths - to provide an opportunity to bring together such a wide range of opinions and to provide input into major issues of concern.

"The other institutions flowing from the Belfast Agreement demonstrate progressive and positive developments in inclusive democracy. The Civic Forum is a further example of this partnership approach to the governance of Northern Ireland. There is recognition that people working together can provide solutions to problems that would be difficult to resolve in isolation."

In his address Mr Mallon acknowledged the already significant role played by ordinary people working on the ground who, he said, had helped to promote an atmosphere which had made political progress possible.

"A consultative Civic Forum is an important part of the Good Friday Agreement and the architecture of devolution. It gives ordinary people a voice and the chance to actively participate in the social, economic and cultural affairs of Northern Ireland. It is also an opportunity to build on the important contribution they have already made to the process which has brought us where we are today.

"The establishment of the Civic Forum is aimed at enhancing participative democracy. It is about finding new ways to open up dialogue, raising awareness and stimulating debate on the key challenges that we face as we move from a situation of conflict to the creation of a new mature, Northern Ireland. In short, it is about building a more broadly based political culture.

"The Civic Forum should challenge the status quo. It should champion better ways of doing things. Critically, it must connect the disparate elements of our society through its discussions, actions and initiatives."

The membership of the Forum also heard a call from their Chairperson, Dr Gibson, for them to provide an example of co-operation in their work.

He said: "We as a Forum, selected by a varied but vigorous process from our peer groups, can with good information and process create solutions to problems. With critical outside technical help we can tackle even the most complex subjects and I certainly look forward to working with each of you to create the difference which will make this a society second to none to live in, invest in, to visit, or even to hear about and aspire to."



The Civic Forum will consist of a Chairperson and 60 members. Details of the membership are available on the Civic Forum internet site at

The chairperson of the Civic Forum is Dr Chris Gibson, OBE.

Dr Gibson is in his early 60's and has recently retired from Golden Vale Plc although he still is a self-employed director with some small business interests. His background is in the agricultural/business sector and he maintains his farming links. He started his career with Richardsons Fertilisers and eventually became Chairman and Managing Director of ICI (Ireland).

He has strong business background and serves on a number of public bodies; a Board Member of Industrial Development Board for Northern Ireland receiving an annual remuneration of £6,000. He also represents Confederation of British Industry on the Economic Development Forum and is a member of the Research and Development Committee within the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

He is involved with a number of voluntary organisations including, Belfast Charitable Society (Clifton House Appeal), Queens University Belfast (Pro-Chancellor), Irish School of Ecumenics (Chairman of the Executive Board), Democratic Dialogue (member), West Tyrone Rural 2000 Ltd ( member) and National Examining Board for Supervision and Management (member), Centre for Diet and Health (Chairman of the Advisory Board at UU Coleraine), Confederation of British Industry ( Former Chairman now vice-chairman) and recently retired as a member of the Board of the Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association.

He is also non-executive Director of Independent Newspapers News and Media (N.I.) Ltd (a group which includes the Belfast Telegraph Newspaper).

As Chairperson of the Civic Forum he will receive and honorarium of £18,000. His appointment will last for three years until 30 September 2003.

Members of the Forum will receive expenses only. Staff from the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister will provide the secretariat for the Civic Forum.



Source: The Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) - News Release, 9 October 2000.


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