Thursday, 9 August 2012
Last night in St Louise's
I was at the annual 'West Belfast Talks Back' discussion last night and it was a scrappy if sometimes amusing affair. Yvette Shapiro was in the chair, and try as she might, she couldn't stop people from standing up and giving long (if sometimes worthy) speeches instead of asking questions. There were four people on the panel: George Galloway, Gregory Campbell, Ruth Dudley-Edwards and Gerry Kelly. Here's my rating of them.
1. George Galloway: he's a small man but he was head and shoulders above the rest of the panel last night. One of the questions had to do with Israeli treatment of the Palestinians, and Galloway had facts and figures which he marshalled clearly and delivered with punch. 8/10. It would have been 9, but he insisted on lobbing in images of arses and bum-cheeks and oral sex that, while they were sort of funny, weren't as funny as he thought they were.
2. Gregory Campbell: 6/10. Gregory is a dour man, so the fact that he was sitting beside Galloway, who is light on his feet and punches like Katie Taylor made him look even dourer. He did reasonably well on the charge that the DUP were anti-gay, and his frank support for traditional marriage was forceful and frank; but he was several times the butt of Galloway's jokes, which made him look even more leaden-footed.
3. Ruth Dudley-Edwards. Ah Ruthie, my old classmate from UCD. Ruth has taken to calling herself a Londoner, she supports the Orange Order and gallant little Israel, she thinks that spending billions on the Trident nuclear programme is the first duty of the British government, since defence of the realm is the government's first duty. No mention that a nuclear programme is always based on the belief that killing millions of innocent civilians is a good idea. This, from the woman who accused fellow panel members of forgetting the Holocaust. I found her prissy and sometimes tedious. 5/10, and that's generous.
4. Gerry Kelly: even though he was seated as far away from Galloway as he could be, like Gregory Gerry tended to suffer by comparison with him. He was at his most effective talking about Marian Price - justice demands she be released immediately - and the Orange Order - NOBODY is codded that the band outside St Patrick's Church was playing 'The Sloop John B'. But electrifying? Nah. 6/10
The evening wasn't dull by any means, but it didn't have that passionate edge of other years. Mind you there were probably more chuckly moments than previously. But I came away feeling as if I'd had fast food rather than a nourishing meal, which is a pity, because 'West Belfast Talks Back', at its best, can be very, very nourishing.
I never did get to ask George Galloway where he stood on Scottish independence, which was a pity but impossible with the plethora of hands going up from people who wanted to make minor speeches rather than ask questions. Next time, a tougher chairperson, please.