West Belfast Talks Back – the Brolly vs Campbell show #feile16

West Belfast Talks Back panel 2016The first question at tonight’s West Belfast Talk Back panel event asked about the definition of victims. The answers ran along party lines, though the DUP’s Gregory Campbell was happy to agree that the child of an IRA man was a victim as would be the child of a killed loyalist paramilitary. Asked whether today’s letter from First and deputy First Ministers to the British Prime Minister was a change of tone over Brexit from the DUP, he said “no … Brexit opens up massive opportunities and we should welcome [those opportunities]”.

For a large part, Joe Brolly played the overly sweary crank on the panel, criticising the nature of NI politics in one breath before comparing Gregory Campbell to God in the next … later criticising public representatives for sneering. At times his questioning opened up breaks for Campbell to look moderate and progressive – mostly passed over – as well as opportunities to undermine and over ridicule the East Londonderry MP. During the evening Brolly raised a number of issues, but his own tone tended towards being sneering rather than genuinely inquiring, weakening his counsel to Campbell that “you could be leading instead of peddling negative nonsense”.

West Belfast Talks Back audience 2016Overall it turned into the Brolly/Campbell show with a question from the audience feeding the format and giving the DUP representative both the opportunity to defend his “curry my yoghurt” comments (no one start their Assembly contributions saying “Fair faa ye” and they’d be rightly pulled up if they did) and repeat the insult.

The women sitting to the other side of chair Tara Mills contributed less frequently.

Answering a question from the floor from Alan McBride about “moving on”, Long was applauded for her comments about inner identity and the confidence it gives people. The panel was “talking about the past through a bipolar lens”. She rebutted the notion that East Belfast had no similar event, mentioning the mothballed East Belfast Speaks Out that had included leading republicans (Gerry Kelly and Martin McGuinness) on its panel in previous years. The East Belfast MLA offered her analysis of the ramifications of Brexit and suggested that the upsurge in Irish passport applications from NI demonstrates that Remain supporters know the value of belonging to Europe.

Martina Anderson staunchly defended the need for equal marriage and outlined the cross-party effort behind the Private Members Bill. Earlier when the discussion veered towards Brexit Anderson said that anyone who things the British Government will replace local EU funding is “delusional”.

West Belfast Talks Back audience 2016Less well-attended than previous years – though Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin was in the audience – the event suffered from being no different to an episode of the Nolan Show, with many of the same contributors on the panel and with the familiar faces and voices with microphones on the floor.

One year the Féile an Phobail organisers will have to swallow their allegiances and invite the SDLP and People Before Profit onto the panel. The SDLP’s absence in particular is increasingly nonsensical and party political. Even Mike Nesbitt had his turn in 2013!

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  • Brendan Heading

    One year the Féile an Phobail organisers will have to swallow their allegiances and invite the SDLP and People Before Profit onto the panel.

    SF won’t allow them to invite anyone who is an electoral threat to them. No SDLP, no PBP, and no non-SF republicans.

  • Declan Doyle

    You do realise that you are actually insulting the organisers and the thousands of attendees and contributors with your comment rather than SF, who is obviously your intended target.

  • Brendan Heading

    You may as well go all out and call me an enemy of the peace process.

  • Declan Doyle

    I have no reason to label you in any way. I am simply pointing out that your claim that Sinn Fein Ultimately control the festival suggests that the festival committee, the participants and attendees which together amount to thousands of people are somehow void of the required level of intelligence to reject a festival that is under the control of one republican political party.

  • Brendan Heading

    This is utter and complete drivel – I said nothing of the kind.

  • Declan Doyle

    “SF won’t allow them to invite anyone who is an electoral threat to them”

    That’s what you said. So you must therefore believe that it is SF who calls the shots on how the festival is run? No ?

  • Brendan Heading

    This discussion is utterly moronic. What I said is there in black and white, and is easily understood to neither be suggesting that SF “ultimately control” the festival, nor is it a slight on the intelligence of “thousands of people”. Your fanciful MOPEish interpretations are your own business and I’m not wasting any more time refuting them.

    I’m happy to hear an alternative explanation for why West Belfast Talks Back has been running for, what, 20 years ? – and rarely, if ever, seems to manage to have panellists from non-SF nationalist parties. If you have a better theory, go ahead.

  • Declan Doyle

    I have no idea why the SDLP have never been there, I would be interested to know why they have not been invited, or maybe they were and refused. I have no idea.

    And you are correct, your comment is in Black and White and it is very clear. You said SF will not ‘allow’ something to occur. Therefore you must believe they have control over it. Where is your evidence that SF have such control over the festival to be in a position to disallow anyone from participating? Maybe it is you who is the MOPEY fantasist.

  • Brendan Heading

    I have no idea

    Yup.

  • Declan Doyle

    Well it is obvious you have no idea. But that’s not the point. Surely you can back up your own allegations? Or are you a keyboard warrior with no message behind the slurs?

  • AntrimGael

    It would actually help dissuade the notion that anyone opposed to the Shinners electorally isn’t invited to these events if they WERE actually invited. There does seem to be a degree of control over who goes to them, audience wise and panel wise, and Republicans outside the Sinn Fein politburo, PBP and the SDLP are noticeable by their absence.

  • Declan Doyle

    Ya I agree, but to a point. If the Shinners are accused of having the sway over who is invited, at least put up the evidence. If they are deliberately acting to block the SDLP or others from partaking in these debates, lets have it out with them and lets get it rectified.

  • AntrimGael

    I watched last year’s West Belfast Talks Back on the local Belfast channel last week and I had to laugh. When the camera panned the room it did look like a Sinn Fein Ard Fheis to be fair to Brendan. I think the organisers need to clarify if other ‘Republican and Nationalist’ parties are invited.

  • Roger

    The absence is the evidence.

  • Jim M

    My wife and I went last year. We didn’t this time. Why? The line up – Brolly has always come across as a ‘professional mouth’ and in combination with Campbell it just turns into a dog and pony show. Also, last year so many of the questions were asked on behalf of some organisation or other, it felt impossible to get one in as a private citizen. I would go back if there was a more interesting lineup – and yes, while I have no way of knowing what invites are sent, it would be refreshing to see someone from the SDLP, PBP or a non-SF republican on the panel.

  • Teddybear

    No harm to you Declan Doyle but your comments are like those from who blindly support Mugabe in ZANU PF. that’s why many call your party ZANU SF.

    Feile is a SF/IRA festival. Anyone who thinks otherwise is naive and those non republicans who take part in its events are playing the part of the useful idiot

  • Granni Trixie

    My understanding is that the gatekeepers who identify and select people to be part of the FEILE is limited to an organising committee of the usual suspects. If it were broadened beyond a SF perspective we might have a programme representative of the diversity within WB – which is broader than SDLP and PBP.

  • Granni Trixie

    I think such criticism is legitimate. As a regular attender and as one proud to identify with WB, I think the Feile would benefit from a programme more reflective of th diversity in WB. Including the likes of Gregory is window dressing.

    Look at how the EB festival is flourishing and from its programme I suggest this is due to being directed by producing an interesting programme rather than to reinforce a particular political analysis.

  • Granni Trixie

    AND OTHER KINDS OF WB PEOPLE! (Sorry for shouting but…)

  • Declan Doyle

    No its not, has the SDLP, PBP or any other party or individual presented any evidence that they have tried to partake but have been prevented by Sinn Fein?

  • Declan Doyle

    That’s an interesting take. Is it you that might be the sheep here, following the usual old line that the Shinners are bad and I don’t need evidence to prove it? I will happily hold SF to account for their actions where it is shown that they are transgressing the rights or entitlements of others. There is nothing blind in wanting evidence.

  • hgreen

    I’m sure it’s been said before but there are too many festivals in Belfast. We should pool our resources and have one world class one like Edinburgh.

  • PeterBrown

    If its by invitation for the speakers why did they need to show they have tried to be invited – now that is SF logic!

  • Declan Doyle

    Who did?

  • PeterBrown

    Who did what?

  • Declan Doyle

    Read your own post

  • Brendan Heading

    Nice trolling – I’m not sure what the role for “useful idiots” would be; there is no hidden agenda behind Féile. As a festival run within and for a constituency that is 90% nationalist it is hardly surprising that it reflects the community in that respect, but for most part it is a positive, professionally run public event which brings in revenue and attracts tourists; I don’t see why anyone could have any problem with it. It certainly beats drunken hijinks in the vicinity of a large pile of burning rubbish.

  • Brendan Heading

    I should emphasize that I’m not trying to bash Féile. It’s a West Belfast festival, organised largely by, and for, the people who live there or are from there. It’s not reasonable to expect it to be impartial, any more than it would be reasonable to expect the 12th to be impartial, or to expect that Pride should feature straight people. I have no problem with public money being spent on community events that are professionally run and deliver social value. Féile is a model event. I wish that communities across NI would do more to emulate its positive model.

    But let’s not kid ourselves that the “Talks Back” event is some kind of hard-hitting-ask-the-tough-questions debating forum. It’s no longer edgy or risky to invite the Chief Constable or a DUP MP to address an audience in the constituency. SF wouldn’t tolerate someone like Anthony McIntyre turning up to give his version of what happened at the Hunger Strikes. Or for the SDLP to turn up and ask what exactly Gerry Adams did for the ~30 years he was an MP. The organisers of Féile would know this without having to be told.

  • Brendan Heading

    These events hardly “reinforce a particular [SF] political analysis”

    No dispute with your point, other than this part.

    There is revisionism (I mean the term in the positive sense) going on within republicanism about the Somme, Irish soldiers joining the British Army to fight the Germans, the role of the Queen etc, because SF are approving and leading it.

    SF won’t tolerate revisionism of their own analysis of their own history, or their own leadership. You’ll hear unionist panelists challenging the IRA campaign from a panel because nationalists don’t care what unionists think about the IRA. You won’t hear other republicans challenging it, because criticism coming from within is a threat to SF’s hegemony.

    That said, I’d add once again that I think it’s wrong to castigate the Féile as some kind of self-indulgent SF propaganda fest. Much of it is nothing to do with politics, and generally speaking the whole thing is a credit to the people organizing it.

  • PeterBrown

    As should you
    “has the SDLP, PBP or any other party or individual presented any evidence that they have tried to partake but have been prevented by Sinn Fein?”

    Followed by (from me)
    If its by invitation for the speakers why did they need to show they have tried to be invited – now that is SF logic!

    Does that help?

  • Declan Doyle

    “If its by invitation for the speakers why did they need to show they have tried to be invited ..”

    You are speaking in the past affirmative. Your comment suggests that they have shown proof they have tried to be invited. So, I am asking you who has done that?

  • PeterBrown

    Did / do and a missing question mark – just answer the question?

  • John Claudius

    Maybe call it The Festival of Fools or is that name already being used!

  • hgreen

    Well whatever we call it, it’s got to be better than loads of little festivals that would consider All Saints as a headline act.

  • Declan Doyle

    I never said they needed or were required to show anything. I simply queried if they had done so.

  • PeterBrown

    You have intimated that if people want to prove they are being excluded they need to produce evidence they have applied and been rejected when in fact it is you need who needs to prove that involvement is by application not as would usually be the case by invitation before the failure to apply can be a valid criticism….

  • Granni Trixie

    I don’t agree. The more platforms we have for the arts the better.

  • Jim M

    I’m not a fan of All Saints but they were big enough in their day, don’t see why they shouldn’t be a headline act…

  • Granni Trixie

    Whilst there are aspects of the Festival I participate in and enjoy I do think by and large it is a vehicle for SF propaganda. Sadly.

  • Declan Doyle

    You need to follow the conversation. The original poster claimed SF stopped other parties from taking part and I asked him to provide evidence of that, he couldn’t.

  • PeterBrown

    Oh I have followed it and this is what you asked for

    “has the SDLP, PBP or any other party or individual presented any evidence that they have tried to partake but have been prevented by Sinn Fein?”

    You quite clearly indicate that they should provide evidence of having proactively requested to participate rather than accept that they are conspicuous by their absence because they haven’t been invited transferring the blame to them.

  • Declan Doyle

    Tosh! I asked that by way of ascertaining if the original poster had any such evidence or information. And still, after all these comments we still do not know why they original poster made an unsustantiated accusation.

  • PeterBrown

    In a case of invitation as suggsested by Roger immeidately prior to your post the onus is on the organiser to show that the invitation was issued not on the missing guest to show that the invitation was requested – the post is not unsubstantiated in fact everyone except you seems to accept it is a fact though maybe we are all wrong and you are right?

  • John

    Have heard a bit about Joe Brolly but listening that my goodness he is one complete and utter knob!!

  • Declan Doyle

    It is hardly a case of being wrong or right. It would be fine if the organisers would explain why they don’t invite SDLP etc. But they haven’t, so i wondered aloud have they ever complained about that. The question I was posing and still have not got an answer despite all the deflection. Where is the evidence that SF “don’t allow” other parties as named above to take part in the debates? That was the original claim in this twist.

  • AntrimGael

    Are you by any chance from Tyrone or Kerry?

  • PeterBrown

    Right I have no intention of continuing the ever decreasing circles here – you did not mention the excluded complaining instead you indicated the responsibility / onus was on them to try to partake and show evidence they had done so. The evidence as Roger put it and I repeated it is their absence the only issue is who is excluding them – festival organisers Sinn Fein or the extent to which those terms can be used interchangeably. The fact is that they are excluded what we can be wrong or right about is by whom and why….

  • babyface finlayson

    Joe Brolly did give a kidney to his friend so I guess he is allowed to be a bit of a knob.
    Also I heard it inspired Declan Kidney to give his brolly to a friend. Karma.

  • Declan Doyle

    Grand

  • Teddybear

    Not trolling. Unless you regard the opinions of ordinary unionists and right thinking nationalists as trolling

  • Teddybear

    Ok I will take you at your word then but I would appreciate it if you could let us know even one thing you object to in SF.

  • Declan Doyle

    I was personally disgusted when Gerry Kelly’s election team used the religious breakdown data in NB to appeal for votes and i made that very clear to them at the time.

    Currently I am a bit uneasy at plans to ditch the pay policy and I have also made that very clear. There has been wide consultation on the issue and we have yet to see what the final decision will be, personally I would like to see at least a portion of reps salaries going back into the pot.

    Be aware that Shinners in the south are not gene pool. The majority of us come from FF or FG or Labour families. Most of us would have come to support SF after a personal political journey where we became unhappy with the status quo parties.

    The notion that we are all sheep who merely follow a leader simply does not stand up to scrutiny. Choosing to support a political party is no different to any other personal decision. SF happen to fit my own social and political ideals closer than any other party.

    Shinners are not plucked from our mothers arms and raised in a den of hypnotism. There is no cult. This narrative is a fantasy pushed by those who either hate SF or are jealous of the level of unity and cohesion across the party.

    I suggest you take yourself to the party’s Ard Fheis next year as an observer. See for yourself how it all works, how decisions are made and how individuals are selected for positions within the party and the process followed to adopt party policy.

    The real sheep out there are those who blindly buy into that cult narrative without actually examining the facts themselves. Those who actually believe that all of Shinnerdom are controlled by a higher power with no influence to affect change and no opportunities to question direction, taking orders and sheepishly carrying them out. It is simply nonsense, lies and plain old hyperbole.

  • Redstar

    If you want to talk disgust at vile bigotry Campbell’s refusal to attend Dalys funeral- and the same bigoted ignorance of Dup mayor of Strabane/Derry- says it all about these types

  • Declan Doyle

    Did any Unionists go to the funeral?

  • hgreen

    Your cliched comment shows very little understanding of the problem. What we have is an incredible waste of money through duplication of effort, promotion, web pages etc. All that does is reduce the amount of funding that goes towards the artists. It also means that we have difficulty attracting the very best. As a result Belfast misses another opportunity to promote itself and attract visitors.

  • Granni Trixie

    How patronising! I have a thought out view through involvement. You have a different view/approach.

  • Granni Trixie

    I think because he did that selfless act I was especially disappointed at his foul language and inappropriately aggressive language at a GAA occasion I attended – he took th shine off the guest of honour. . He should catch himself on.

  • Hugh Davison

    Have you links to these opinions, or are you their self-appointed spokesman?