Since 2000, Sligo County Community Forum has been a voice for community and voluntary groups in the County. However in 2014 that is about to change. As part of the local government reform process a new Public Participation Network (PPN) is to be established.
Gerald O Connor, Chairperson of the Community Forum said ‘We appreciate the faith and trust that the community and voluntary sector have put in us to represent their views. While there is regret about the end of the community forum, we are confident that the new PPN will be an effective vehicle for getting the views of the community sector across. The community forum is working with the council to ensure that community groups understand what the PPN is about and to encourage them to get involved’.
Over the years Sligo Community Forum have tried to give a voice to community issues by nominating representatives onto local government committees. It has also been active in raising issues in the media. The Community Forum also wrote and made submissions to government departments and brought community groups together to discuss issues affecting the sector. Gerald O Connor said ‘Just last week we had a large meeting of community groups to identify their issues – community people are on the ground every day, trying to support their communities, these groups are the best placed to know what the problems are and how to address them and the PPN will be there now for those groups to ensure that they have access to decision making bodies at a county level’.
All community , voluntary, environmental and social inclusion groups will be able to join the PPN. Once groups have registered they will be invited to attend meetings of the PPN. It is expected that groups will also be able to connect together using social media. The PPN will be responsible for nominating representatives onto local structures, including the local community development committee, the Joint Policing Committee and other committees in the County Council.
Gerald O Connor said ‘We are just in the early stages of setting up the PPN. It is important at this stage that community groups register, as the PPN will only be as strong as its membership. The PPN will be a completely new structure and there will be opportunities for many new people to become involved. We are supporting the council with this process, because we know the importance of having the community sector involved in decision making’.
‘Most of all, as chairperson of the outgoing Sligo Community and Voluntary Forum I want to congratulate and thank all of the volunteers who are working every day in community development, sports, education, addressing mental and physical health issues, supporting the most vulnerable in our communities and much more– as a community forum we have a great overview of the massive contribution that is made by volunteers to keep our communities afloat. Groups today are always telling us how difficult it is just to keep the door open – so congratulations to you for being there and continuing with your work despite the odds. The community and voluntarty sector have to be the unsung heroes of our recession’.
To find out more about the PPN log onto www.sligoppn.ie or attend one of the information sessions which are being held around the county in September.