Episode 29 - Aideen McGinley

EPISODE SUMMARY Community planning provides a model that builds on the tradition of the “very strong community spirit that prevailed in Northern Ireland” during the Troubles, argues Aideen McGinley in the latest Forward Trust podcast. McGinley is a trustee of Carnegie UK, co-chair of its embedding wellbeing project in Northern Ireland and a former senior civil servant. Aideen stresses that we need to be positive rather than fearful as we look to the future. “The bottom line is that people do not want to go back,” she says. Aideen reflects: “I was at an event in Leeds in May with four parts of the civil service across the UK and there was a very interesting workshop on Northern Ireland where a professor from Queen’s University put forward the point that the Good Friday Agreement is a very good agreement. It was an international agreement that took five years to negotiate, with multi strands based on the principle of consent. In fact, he felt that in the current Brexit devolution situation it’s something the rest of the UK should look at as a model of best practice…. I think what we’re missing at the moment is the leadership. Listen on to hear the full conversation with Aideen.

FULL EPISODE DESCRIPTION

Community planning provides a model that builds on the tradition of the “very strong community spirit that prevailed in Northern Ireland” during the Troubles, argues Aideen McGinley in the latest Forward Trust podcast.  McGinley is a trustee of Carnegie UK, co-chair of its embedding wellbeing project in Northern Ireland and a former senior civil servant.

Aideen stresses that we need to be positive rather than fearful as we look to the future.  “The bottom line is that people do not want to go back,” she says.   Aideen reflects: “I was at an event in Leeds in May with four parts of the civil service across the UK and there was a very interesting workshop on Northern Ireland where a professor from Queen’s University put forward the point that the Good Friday Agreement is a very good agreement. It was an international agreement that took five years to negotiate, with multi strands based on the principle of consent.  In fact, he felt that in the current Brexit devolution situation it’s something the rest of the UK should look at as a model of best practice…. I think what we’re missing at the moment is the leadership.”

Aideen is strongly committed to the principle that government here should focus on the promotion and achievement of wellbeing.  “We started out on the wellbeing agenda back in 2013, it having been very successfully implemented by the Scottish government.”  In Northern Ireland the approach is to “create innovation on common ground”.

“What Carnegie did was they came in and we invited all 11 councils, and all 11 applied, and we’re putting extra resources into three of them. We’re looking at co-production so that it is about working with people to determine what the plans would be. We’re talking about shared leadership.”

From this, says Aideen, community planning has become a vehicle for civic engagement.  It is better today, she suggests to build on the community planning experience than to go back to the old Civic Forum.  “I think this way you can get voices coming up through… local and central government where there’s a voice that the politicians at the top won’t see as a threat, but will actually see as organic. I think some of what’s happening is the shared leadership and the co-production piece as people are working together to prioritise to get their plans, to articulate what’s important to them….  You’re finding that the community planning process isn’t just dominated by the major parties in each area.”

When addressing division in society, Aideen is a strong supporter of shared education.  “For me the shared education model is a really interesting one,” she says. “I have grandchildren who’ve been beneficiaries of it.”  The shared education model might be further developed, she believes, at sixth form level, given the difficulty individual post-primary schools have in offering a sufficiently wide choice of A level subjects.  “I’m not simplistic about it, but I think we have an opportunity coming up, particularly with school finances. There’s hardly a school I know that does not operate on a deficit….  And when they get to secondary and grammar level the kids are not getting the choice of subjects”.

Aideen also believes that we must invest more in mental health services.  “Mental health in Northern Ireland is abominable,” she says. “I’m involved in a mental health charity and it is shocking the levels of suicide, particularly of young men…. I think the biggest crisis in our health service in Northern Ireland is in mental health.”

The latest podcast interview is available here. The podcasts are also available on iTunes and Spotify.

Holywell Trust receives support for the Forward Together Podcast through the Media Grant Scheme and Core Funding Programme of Community Relations Council.  
This podcast is funded through the Community Relations Council for Northern Ireland's Media Award Fund and the Reconciliation Fund of the Department for Foreign Affairs. Holywell Trust receives core support from Community Relations Council for Northern Ireland. CRC Disclaimer - This project has received support from the Northern Ireland Community Relations Council which aims to promote a pluralist society characterised by equity, respect for diversity, and recognition of interdependence. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the Community Relations Council. (c) Holywell Trust 2019