East Belfast Spoke Out

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Someone said it was only the second time that Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness had appeared together as MLAs (rather than ministers) on the same panel since they formed their FM/dFM partnership. They were joined by Dawn Purvis, Hugo Swire and Liam Clarke.

Security constraints prevented the disclosure of full panel in advance, and the small matter of the Manchester football derby, meant that organisers worried the numbers attending might be low. But the hall in Ashfield Boys School was packed for more than 400 people, with extra chairs brought in, and eventually some people had to be turned away. (Speaking afterwards, Martin McGuinness indicated that he’d have preferred if the organisers had been able to publicise their names. )

You can listen to the full audio of the discussion and hear the reflections of some of the panellists after the event was over.

It was noticeable that the local politicians on the panel were being particularly good natured. The hard and cross Peter Robinson had been replaced with a calm, confident and patient one. There was no sign of the abruptness that has been visible in some of his media appearances during 2010. He was able to talk about Irish unity and say that the decision was in the public’s hands and not those of politicians without immediately saying that of course it would never happen.

At no stage did Martin McGuinness or Peter Robinson contradict each other. Often they endorsed each other’s words (and those of other panellists). Either the thermostat in the OFMdFM offices has been turned up from frosty to moderate, or their back room staff had agreed some ground rules for the event.

During the evening, the panel chewed through a wide range of topics – much more effectively than last year. Lots of young people participating and overall more women than men asking questions. For a town hall event, it was warm, audible, genuinely unorchestrated, and open to anyone who turned up in time. A good night for holding politicians to account.

Who would have thought that at the end of the night Martin McGuinness would have the biggest crowd standing around him wanting his autograph!

The panel at 2010 East Belfast Speaks Out

Dan Gordon started proceedings by reading out a letter from Red Hand Luke who was on the run on holiday. The audience took a while to warm up – perhaps a sign that the hall was full of normal members of the public and not just political nerds – and enjoyed the election posters and wigs towards the end.

Mark Devenport chaired the evening, a “one man peace wall” sitting in-between the First and Deputy First Ministers Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness. He deftly introduced a light touch of hunour every now and again, and frequently sought out audience views inbetween panelists’ answers. He kept the introductions mercifully brief, and started with the only prepared question:

“Is Northern Ireland over-governed and how would the panel go about reducing this to a sensible level?”

Liam Clarke, journalist and commentator, was the first of many to refer to Mark Durkan’s phrase describing the local political institutions as “ugly scaffolding” that brought NI to a position of stability. Dawn Purvis, ex-leader of the PUP and now independent MLA, suggested that “We need to work at making our Assembly more representative of the people it’s meant to represent.”

Peter Robinson admitted “I don’t think there’s any argument to be put up that we’re over governed. The issue is whether that is a bad thing. It’s understandable how we got there.”. He pointed out that we have between two and three times the number of assembly members than in the respective institutions in Scotland and Wales. “There’s no argument that it makes it more representative, but it’s more expensive.”

Martin McGuinness said that the “first thing we need to remember that this isn’t Scotland, this isn’t England, this isn’t Wales.” After 70 or more years of conflict the “institutions were designed to be as representative as possible”. He would have favoured seven rather than eleven departments that would have undoubtedly made government more efficient. He pointed out that the coalition government in Westminster will be reducing the number of constituencies which will have the knock on effect of shrinking the number of MLAs.

Minster of State Hugo Swire – who was standing in for the Secretary of State Owen Paterson – nearly missed his chance to reply to the question. Peter Robinson quickly pointed out that he was the “Tory on the far left” of the panel.

The panel at 2010 East Belfast Speaks Out

For the second year in the row, Jim Wilson caught the chairman’s eye and got to ask the first question from the floor. And in a repeat of last year, he asked the same question:

“Do the panel think the Historical Enquiries Team is the best way to move our society forward?”

He went on to point out that 84% of HET cases are focussed in loyalist areas, which doesn’t reflect the balance of crime across the troubles.

Dawn Purvis questioned “How do we as a society find a way to deal with the past? The HET is one method of dealing with the past. But the inherent flaw is that there is no cooperation from former combatants.”

Peter Robinson said that “If you looked at the level of success versus the amount of money being put into it then you might ask questions. But then there is the other side, the victims.” He went on to suggest that “if people committed a crime, then as long as you can get appropriate evidence, they should be brought to justice” but “it must be even handed”.

From the floor, someone working at the WAVE Trauma Centre asked “What is the beef with anti-peace republicans and anti-peace loyalists?”

Martin McGuinness responded “On the republican side and I use the word in inverted commas, the people there [dissidents] don’t represent the vast majority of people in republican and nationalist areas who want to join with their loyalist and unionist neighbours.”

“Every bullet they fire, every bomb they explode, doesn’t weaken us, but makes us stronger, and unites the Executive. We’re absolutely united in the Executive against these people. Their activities are futile, and they do a great disservice to their families and the causes they think they represent.”

Peter Robinson was next saying “Martin’s right.” He said that the dissidents no doubt believed that “the assembly is shaky and will crumble at the first sign of dissident activity … leading to the collapse of Stormont”. They had killed two soldiers and a serving policeman. “Did it tear us apart? No. It brought us together. The assembly came in the next day and condemned it to a man and woman.”

The debate segwayed into Cohesion, Sharing and Integration.

There was at least one bus load of WIMPS representatives in the hall, along with others from the Northern Ireland Youth Panel. A WIMPS rep expressed her disappointment that Gerry Adams hadn’t responded to their request to meet. Martin McGuinness offered them a meeting and said he’d bring Gerry along.

Martin McGuinness admitted that both the DUP and Sinn Fein had made compromises over the inclusion of material in the CSI document. Later Peter Robinson responded to the criticism that CSI omitted dealing with the gay community, saying that another specific strategy was already being worked on to look at LGBT, and that the purpose of the CSI document was to address sectarianism and racism.

Peter Robinson said “It’s very clear that we live in a deeply divided society. Intrinsically divided. I want us to have a shared society. That doesn’t mean I expect Martin to go around waving a union jack or that I will start learning Irish.” But he called for “a much greater respect” for each other’s cultures.

Jenny Muir from East Belfast Diary (who has posted a great write-up of the evening) asked whether the panel would consider moving to a system of voluntary coalition.

Peter Robinson said that “I would have never have chosen the kind of structure we have at Stormont. It’s unwieldy.” But “as we progress as a society we will normalise.” He called on young people to get “involved in every aspect of political life”.

Hugo Swire admitted “It’s quite an unwieldy structure but it’s a hell of a lot better than what went before.”

Gillian, a local resident, reset the debate and brought the panel’s attention to the future.

“The words I’ve heard tonight are very encouraging about reconciliation and shared future. But what will it be like in 10 or 20 years’ time? Sinn Fein are still very committed to a United Ireland and the DUP are committed to UK integration. Where do you imagine this country’s going to be politically and strategically in 10-20 years?”

Martin McGuinness pointed to their achievements thus far. “Up until three or four years ago Peter Robinson and I had never had a conversation about anything.” He recounted an early conversation with the previous First Minister Ian Paisley who had said “Martin – we can rule ourselves. We don’t need these direct rule ministers coming over here to tell us what to do.”

We went on to explain “I regard Ian Paisley and his wife as a friend” and echoed earlier statements that political compromise had been an inevitable part of the peace journey:

“As a Irish republican I had to compromise … It was a good thing we done on behalf of the people we represent.”

A woman in the audience accused the panel of “retrospective backslapping – we want to hear more about the future.”

A male local resident asked “Given the locus of power in East Belfast [in terms of the number of party leaders and ministers] why is voter turnout so low?” There was a run of questions from the floor asking about capital cuts, water charges, university fees, public sector job cuts, corporation tax and plans for a special enterprise zone.

Peter Robinson said he was concerned at the effects of the likely corporation tax proposals. “There’s a bit of the Ballymena in me. I want a corporation tax deal, but I want a good one.”

Regarding sovereignty, Peter Robinson said that neither he nor Martin would decide about a united Ireland. It would be the public.

In one of only two cross moments during the whole evening, Hugo Swire retaliated back at Peter Robinson quoting the EU’s Azores ruling. Peter parlayed back.

The other moment of tussle came when after the audience applauded Martin McGuiness’ statement of disappointment that Owen Paterson hadn’t turned up at East Belfast Speaks Out for the second year in a row.

Swire called it an “uncharacteristic attack from Martin” affirming that he was Minister of State and that the whips would not allow the Secretary of State to miss important votes in the Commons. They Work For You website suggests the Commons was voting on the Support and Protection for Elderly People and Adults at Risk of Abuse. (The government comfortably won 296/40 and defeated the amendment 76/301.)

Dawn quipped “Can I come back to the future?” Going back to the mention of sovereignty, she said “people are concerned about housing and the money in their pocket … they are less and less concerned with green and orange.” She went on to address an earlier question about university fees. “This is an elitist group of people who are wanting to make universities more elitist. I went to university and I’m still paying off my student loan.”

The panel at 2010 East Belfast Speaks Out

I asked Dawn Purvis about Peter Robinson’s performance.

[Alan] Is that a confident Peter Robinson emerging from the shadow of earlier in the year?

[Dawn] I think it’s a confident unionism starting to emerge from the DUP that probably we haven’t seen and probably we’re beginning to see now. And that’s a good thing.

[Alan] Do you think thay’ll keep it up as they come up to the election?

[Dawn] Well the fear is that people will go back to the trenches because that’s what usually happens. But I think we’ve seen magnanimity from the First and deputy First Ministers and I hope we see more of of.

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  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    Was Naomi Long not available? ;)

  • Aklan Maskey

    Whilst I am sure the good residents of East Belfast were happy to see McGuinness, knowing that he had gone to the funeral of the RC PCNI man recently killed in Lurgan by RIRA, two realted thoughts came to me.
    1. Did McGuinness receive Holy Communion?
    2. Has he got absolution for any reserved sins he may have committed?

    Though this may not be an issue in East Belfast and perhaps McGuinness’ failure to find a suitably sized Poppy to wear might be more pertinent to their needs, I am sure some of them might ponder it, when contemplating issues of integrity.

  • http://alaninbelfast.blogspot.com Alan in Belfast

    She was on the panel last year. No repeat visits.

  • Carson’s Cat

    Might have been useful to have had Naomi on the panel.

    She hasn’t been seen in the East since May.

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    Any more events of this type coming up?

  • honestman

    Peter Robinson knows McGuinness is a victim maker, yet tonight, to his shame, he will help laud him as a paragon of peace. Remembrance Day is a very precious occasion for many, not least the thousands of the IRA’s victims, including those made victims in the IRA’s Poppy Day Massacre in Enniskillen, but what will Peter Robinson be doing? Lined up at a €200 a plate gala celebration in Dublin with IRA Commander McGuinness, who from his key Army Council role knows all about such atrocities…Peter and IRA Marty best of frienda now.

  • BelfastJim

    Talking about Naomi Long, I watch live coverage of the House of Commons almost every single day and Naomi Long is very rarely attending key debates in the House, for example the Bloody Sunday Debate of which almost every single MP from Northern Ireland attended. I think if Naomi Long wants to hold on to her seat she better start making a better impression as MP and start actually attending and debating more in the House of Commons – she was voted to do a job, so do it!

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    But same venue …

  • Jj

    What, no sign of the TUV candidate? Hence the sensible and positive debate, perhaps? ;)

  • Alan Maskey

    Whilst I am sure the good residents of East Belfast were happy to see McGuinness, knowing that he had gone to the funeral of the RC PCNI man recently killed in Lurgan by RIRA, two related thoughts came to me.
    1. Did McGuinness receive Holy Communion?
    2. Has he got absolution for any reserved sins he may have committed?

    Though this may not be an issue in East Belfast and perhaps McGuinness’ failure to find a suitably sized Poppy to wear might be more pertinent to their needs, I am sure some of them might ponder it, when contemplating issues of integrity.

  • http://www.atangledweb.org David Vance

    Tend to stay away from Terrorist godfathers. Gutted Naomi wasn’t there – still she’s working night and day for the ..erm….good people that put her in…

  • james smyth

    Naomi was on the panel in 2009.

    JMS
    co-organiser EBSO

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Not so much surprised to see Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness sitting together. Kinda surprised to see Mr Clarke sitting with the latter.
    And why should a journalist be included in a political panel?

    But was the panel slightly lacking in balance. The Opposition to our Executive comes from within the Executive (UUP, SDLP, AP). The debate might have been heated if Mr Robinson had been sitting alongside fellow unionist Reg Empey or if Mr McGuinness had been alongside Alex Attwood.
    Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness are not actually competing for the same votes.
    Mr Robinson is engaged in a battle with UUP for 50% of our votes.
    Mr McGuinness is involved with SDLP in a battle for 40%.

    Keep your enemies close and your rivals closer. So no heat would be generated.
    But rather like Johnsons (???) observation of a dog walking on its back legs. Its not so much the fact that its not very elegant…the great thing is that it happens at all.
    So Martin and Peter sitting alongside each other….is actually a good thing in itself. And a better image than anything from the 20th century.
    But if I was SDLP or UUP Id be just a little peeved at being outside the love-in.
    But it is a tribute to the people of East Belfast that the event happened without incident (as indeed unionists have appeared on the Falls Road). Another victory for Belmont Bowling Club.
    And better men and women than I am Bungit In. I felt just a twinge of discomfort at listening to David Adams last week…even more uncomfortable when he made sense.

    The Future?
    Increasingly I am glad that I wont see much of it. But kinda optimistic that there are young people who can cope better with the Future than people like me coped with the Past.
    At the risk of being “twee” Parenthood changed me. I expected that it would. But I was unprepared for the fact that Grandparenhood changes you more.
    Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness are grandads trying to be Granpa Walton and increasingly feeling like Granpa Simpson.
    A lot of old geezers can appreciate that in a way youthful political anoraks cant.
    And they wanted his autograph?
    Did he sign it in gaelic as normal?

  • Jj

    Yeah, well Naomi showed good judgement in her approach to people who support mass murder – she refused to shake your hand on election night.

  • joeCanuck

    Normality breaking out in N.I. politics? Surely not. Whatever next?

  • Stephen Blacker

    Very good coverage of this event Alan, brilliant for the likes of me because I was unable to attend. It was a very high profile panel and fair play to all the organisers in pulling in the top people.

    Some very positive subjects and answers given, it was heartening to see the FM & DFM getting on so well with none of the usual point scoring especially coming up to an election It was as class to see the “Carlsberg” MLA there, Dawn Purvis, keeping it all real.

    The audience participation was very good and it seems that the public are starting to question politicans more on bread and butter issues other than green and orange. It was also very noticeable that the majority of questions from the floor came from women and young people hopefully this is the start of a new era in politics here – fingers crossed anyway.

  • http://alaninbelfast.blogspot.com Alan in Belfast

    An alternative venue was sought but fell through.

  • http://alaninbelfast.blogspot.com Alan in Belfast

    Just like BBC Question Time, it’s pretty common for these kind of panels to have other voices present. Patrick Corrigan (Amnesty) was in Liam’s seat last year.

    I do have a feeling that unless the discussion is going to be focussed on a single issue that the non-political panellist is wedded to, then they’ll tend to be sidelined.

    But far better to have a small panel than construct an large, unwieldy one.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    The BBC Question Time “tradition” of the fifth chair for a non-politician is a comparatively recent tradition. So the organisers are just aping the QT format.
    As a traditionalist (but NOT an old fuddy duddy) I despair of QTs fifth chair ……quality can be surprisingly good and depressingly bad.
    And if Mr Mark Carruthers had May McFetridge on his panel at BBC Id not see the point. My position about jourmalists is that they cant be observers AND players.

    Yet the QT format allows for local stuff. Dawn Purvis clearly local but less powerful in electoral terms within East Belfas than a AP or UUP voice critical of the current DUP-SF led Executive.
    And frankly Swire added nothing.
    And yes point taken outside the speciality of journalism or huma rights, theres no point in having Mr Clarke or Mr Corrigan.
    Yet the….reception that Mr McGuiness was accorded..strikes me as odd and mature. As was the SDLPs reception to David Adams.
    Had Nick Griffin of BNP (or their local ally TUV) been present, perhaps the audience would not have been so “affectionate”.
    Political maturity in East Belfast appears to be to at least listen to Martin McGuinness. And probably not to listen to Griffin.
    There does indeed seem to be a new consensus.
    How many times has David Vance signed autographs in East Belfast?

  • Rocketeer

    This is an excellent post: thank you very much Alan in Belfast for posting such a detailed, intelligent and interesting overview of the East Belfast Speaks Out event last night. I am particularly delighted that you managed to record the entire event so clearly and to interview Robinson, McGuinness and Purvis afterwards. Your coverage of the event via twitter and on slugger was top class, as your work always is: congratulations. I would have loved to have attended this event but unfortunately I was unable to do so, but I did follow proceedings via twitter throughout. I have to say that I am truly delighted by the increasingly positive and constructive relationship between Robinson and McGuinness and their steadfast determination to defy the dissidents and keep Stormont ‘up and running’. I feel very positive for the future of Northern Ireland and I believe that regardless of Jim Allister’s criticism of the peace award due to be bestowed upon both Robinson and McGuinness tonight, both men deserve enormous credit for acting so responsibly and constructively for ALL the people of Northern Ireland. Excellent.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    Hear, hear.

  • Stephen Ferguson

    Too right.

    I used to call the local free newspaper the ‘Naomi Times’ as she’d regularly have two or three different articles/photo ops in it every week.

    Now?

    Haven’t seen her since May….

  • Fuiseog

    Comprehensive coverage Alan, many thanks.

    One point that figured for me was where Mr Robinson was described as calm, confident and patient (likeable?) as opposed to … how he might have come across pre-Irisgate.

    I’ve read that its a fairly well recognised phenomenon that a deeply personal shocking if not traumatic and despair filled experience can change a person.

    Sometimes a person will become increasingly angry and blunt and basically self destruct other times, as I believe is increasingly the case with this man. Such a life experience can be a transformative one which garners humility, a compelling almost empathetic regard for others and a degree of maturity and perspective … calm, confident and patient is about right.

    I wonder that many entities come to reflect the traits of those at the head of them if and when these attributes will seep downward into the party he presently heads and will the amicability described here in this excellent report translate into a more mature, calm and confident assembly?

    And with my next thought I wonder will it make a single jot of a difference as long as the British coalition continually and arrogantly undermine and neuter this same Assembly seemingly with little or no regard to the dangers of stalling the momentum and positivity being that the ‘security’ situation (that seemingly represents no one) is so potent as to warrant keeping their very attendance at this event a secret.

    To my mind it is very telling that the ‘security’ situation prevented disclosure of the main speakers. For all the self-congratulatory positive stroking going on there seems to be a glaring denial (incidentally a sound indicator of unresolved trauma), amidst the ritualised condemnatory sound bites of how increasingly dire things are becoming here again.

    Interesting to see that things are going back to ‘normal’ in the North where clearly as long as the optics are good, the natives are tame, denial is paramount and a spade is NOT a spade!!

    Fuiseog

  • Fingals Cave

    Excellent synopsis of the night. Having attended I would query the point above on the ‘maturity’ of the electorate. I felt that due to the unannounced nature of the First and Deputy’s appearance, the mood afforded to begin with was one of muted willingness in the first half, giving way towards the end to a bit of local, matriarch led rambunctiousness.

    Would have been nice to hear some more savage comments from the floor, rather than tippy-toeing around contentious-non contentious issues such as HET and CSI (although it was cute to have a slightly hearing impaired participant beside me ask why they were talking about CSI – got the distinct impression he thought the panel was talking about the forensic crime investigation series!). I think the whole panel, especially Squire Hugo, got off lightly because most people in the room wanted to project the East (i.e. – the stretch from the Strand Cinema up to the Bethany chip shop) as eclectic, open-minded and not as ready to rush to judgement as other parts of the city. My general feeling was that the panel could have been happily playing a bridge foursome (Liam Clarke excluded) and this was just us over-hearing the chit-chat before sandwiches. Martin McGuinness jabbing at Squire Hugo was as harmless of Vic Reeves hitting Bob with his handbag. Also thought the comment from the chair about the audience being slightly mystified by Barnett and Azores was a bit patronising – everyone knows these are house names for a new development of detached bungalows on the Knock golf-course site.

    PS – noticed Mike Nesbitt and Basil McCrea there – had the feel of two boys sitting on the youth club bench, waiting for someone to ask if they wanted to join the five a side football. Also had to giggle when Dawn Purvis talked about getting ‘back to the future’ – had an instance vision of her speeding up the Sydenham bypass in a DeLorean with John Kyle in the seat next to her working the flux capacitor.

    PPS – also got to shake Martin McGuinness’ hand but was a bit reluctant to do so – not because of his past, I just thought he was carrying a bit of a cold and I’m going on holiday next week.

  • Fingals Cave

    Forgot to add that I also went to the toilet at the end and one of Robinson’s police guards came in. I asked him ‘were they clearing the room?’. He said no, ‘I just want a piss’. Note to self – stop watching back-episodes of West Wing.

  • http://alaninbelfast.blogspot.com Alan in Belfast

    The trick is to ask the sound guys at the back of the hall for a feed out of their desk!

  • Rocketeer

    I have to agree with your comments in regards to Naomi Long unfortunately.
    Since Naomi Long was elected as MP for East Belfast in May she would appear to have gradually disappeared from her constituency. Certainly, her appearances at Westminster following the general election have been sporadic and neither particularly constructive nor impressive. In saying this, there is no doubt that she is a hard working and dedicated politician but I would very much like to see more of her in her constituency, and to appear and participate more regularly at various Westminster debates. Oddly, whereas Naomi Long has seemingly disappeared, it would seem that Peter Robinson’s failure to retain his Westminster seat of over 31 years has actually been of benefit to his career and image as a local representative because the spare time has given him the opportunity to quite literally appear everywhere and to focus on his constituency at an MLA level.

  • Rocketeer

    Interesting comment about shaking the hand of Martin McGuinness.

    I was standing near Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness recently at the University of Ulster when President Clinton visited the Magee Campus and I really wanted to shake their hands or ask for an autograph but I was to afraid to do so because I was unsure whether or not Robinson or McGuinness do ‘that sort of thing’ or are approachable. I wish I had of taken my opportunity. This leads me to another question, do politicians as senior as Robinson and McGuinness sign autographs? I wonder if I sent letters to some local politicians if they would give me their autographs. LOL, sad I know!

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Actually local politicians do sign autographs although personally Ive never asked.
    I have a Christmas card signed by most members of an Assembly party from before about 2005. Basically I just asked someone if she could get it for me and she did. No bother.
    Sadly I do have a few political autographs …Enoch Powell, Dick Spring, David Trimble. In the latter two cases I wrote very flattering letters…….one to Spring asked for an autograph to accompany his autobiography which I never bought called “Safe Hands” or some such.
    In the case of Trimble, I lied thru my teeth and congratulated him on his appointment to the UUP leadrship and he wrote back.
    A few other cases.
    I read last weekend that young folks in the SDL were lining up to get photographed with John Hume. That would have been something to tresure although from my perspective, I saw that most people seemed to not want to be seen to bother him (not suggesting that he found it a bother or that the young folk were a bother).
    Certainly one enterprising lady had Sean Farrens book autographed by several SDLP veterans which was quite nice to see.

  • Rocketeer

    You have a very cool collection of autographs! I have always wanted to ask local politicians for autographs but I never had the confidence to write or to ask for autographs. The only political autograph that I have is Mo Mowlam’s which I got when I bought her autobiography whilst I was at school. I think that I may as well send some letters now because if I don’t I guess I never will – do you just write to their constituency offices via letter and ask if you can have an autograph?

  • Drew

    Naomi Long attendance record can be checked at They Work for You. Belfast Jim is incorrect about her attendance & contribution to the debate on the Saville Enquiry

  • joeCanuck

    If by any chance you are thinking about what will happen to those autographs after you have gone, a letter would be much more valuable. ;-)

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Well actually I much prefer my autographs of Best, Law, Charlton, Crerand, Dunne, Brennan, Cantwell, Stiles and most United players from early 1990s including Cantona, Giggs etc. And the Irish World Cup squad 1994 (only Phelan and Cascarino missing).
    But Mr Canuck is right…without a letter or something to put it in context, its really just a scribble on a piece of paper.
    For me the fun was checking out their vanity. “Dear Ms Widdicombe I thought you were great on Question Time…..you were so right about…..”. The trick is NOT to ask for an autograph.
    And yes for me…..the long winter nights just fly by.

  • dwatch

    Congrats to the organisers of this event. Hope there will be more to follow, even a week long East Belfast festival would be welcome like they have every year in West Belfast. I have been informed a number of those in attendance were organisers from West Belfast Speaks Out.

  • Wasted Ballot

    ‘Dawn Purvis clearly local but less powerful in electoral terms within East Belfas than a AP or UUP voice ‘

    Yes but you have to remember all panels in NI have to have her or Conall Mcdevitt on them. The ‘I’m involved in everything I can so I can get a job after next May’ brigade always have a spot on this kind of debate.

    Don’t believe me? Monica Mcwilliams used to do the same thing..

  • Wasted Ballot

    Would love to see this kind of event in North Belfast.. but with no NB politicians!

  • dwatch

    d Ballot: ‘Would love to see this kind of event in North Belfast.. but with no NB politicians!’

    Reply: Indeed, what about South Belfast with Paula Bradshaw and Alex Kane as principal speakers?

    Theme ‘Why we left the UUP’

  • wildmind

    As a southerner I look at all of this and say: do take a step back and realise how Northern Ireland has become an antidote against complete cynicism in a very cynical age. This is not perfect but its still COOL politics.

  • Joe Doyle

    The past is gone. We must all work together to improve our lives. Bigotry must have nothing to do with our future.