Grugach's Gold Community Voting Event

Monday 19 November 2018

The inaugural “Grugach’s Gold” community voting event was held on Saturday 3rd November in the Parochial Hall. The Grugach’s Gold is the “social dividend” from the Manor House’s profits, and it is intended to be used for the good of the community. To further this, it was decided to use a process known as Participatory Budgeting (PB), a form of participatory democracy, where local people decide how to allocate part of a budget; people on Rathlin deciding how the £1,000 from the Manor House would be spent to benefit the community.

Bids of up to £250 were invited from the community. Nine bids were received, for a variety of ideas – one of the benefits of PB is that it can bring new ideas and perspectives to the fore – and these were then presented to the community on that Saturday evening in the Hall and put to a vote.

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Ciaran presents on behalf of Rathlin FC. Photo by Louise O'Kane.

The proposed ideas were for Rathlin FC for footballs, bibs, cones and a storage box to help encourage sport for the island’s young population; the Tuesday Club for window boxes at the Richard Branson Centre; the Sitting Circle for a donation to Refugee Rescue; Rathlin Sound Choir for production costs for a CD; the “Wee Orchestra” for music lessons and a concert for young people; Rathlin Sound Choir for a portable banner for a backdrop for their performances; the “Rhythm of Rathlin” for an inter-generational drumming workshop; “Seconds Away” for an away-day for the island’s secondary school pupils, and a bid for graveyard tidying and maintenance.

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Sarah and Kate present on behalf of Rathlin Sound. Photo by Louise O'Kane.

People supporting each of the bids gave brief informal presentations at the well attended event, and answered any questions that people asked. Of the nine ideas, one was withdrawn at the last minute – the bid from Rathlin Sound Choir for the banner, so the community voted on the remaining eight. It was stressed that everyone had to vote for four of the eight proposals, and that everyone had to have been in the Hall to listen to all the presentations.

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The queue for voting. Photo by Louise O'Kane.

There was a notably supportive atmosphere for the whole process and in particular for those bravely getting up on stage to make the presentations in support of their bids. The four successful bids in a very tight vote were: Rathlin FC; Rathlin Sound Choir; “Seconds Away”; and the graveyard maintenance bid.

The four groups behind these bids will now work with support where necessary from the Resource Centre to implement the ideas, and to report back to the community on their progress. It is hoped that this way of distributing the “Grugach’s Gold” will continue on Rathlin, and will go from strength to strength – particularly once the Manor House is back up and running, and hopefully producing even more funds to be distributed in this way among such deserving projects.

The Grugach’s Gold process would not have happened without the support and guidance of Participatory Budgeting Works; PB Partners (particularly Alan Budge); Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council Community Development Worker, Lisa Harris; Noeleen Diver from the Big Dish Out; good friend of the island, Peter Osborne of the Community Relations Council, and the Rathlin members of the Steering Group, Marianne Green, Michael Cecil and Orlagh Cecil. We are also grateful to the PSNI for a generous donation towards expenses for the information evening held in October.

There is growing interest in the concept of Participatory Budgeting at various levels in Northern Ireland and we are pleased that Rathlin is able to offer a positive contribution to this debate through our practical experience. We look forward to the successful delivery of the projects and future adventures with the Grugach’s Gold

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