Jude Collins

Thursday, 8 August 2013

West Belfast Talks Back

I was at ‘West Belfast Talks Back’ last night -  the signature event of Féile an Phobail.  Tara Mills was in the chair and the panel consisted of Peter Osborne of the Parades Commission, Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald,  the UUP leader Mike Nesbitt and Jeremy Corbyn, the Islington MP. 

As always it was an interesting event. A range of topics was covered - Israel's attitude to Palestine, the banning of the Orange march past the Ardoyne shops, dealing with the past.  But it was a small moment that particularly caught my attention. Someone from the audience asked if, since suicide is a major problem throughout Ireland, would the panel support an all-Ireland approach -  joined-up addressing of the issue, as it were. Everyone on the panel gave a Yes. Well, sort of. Mary Lou McDonald and Jeremy Corbyn agreed that an all-Ireland strategy made sense,  Peter Osborne agreed ( I think)  and so did Mike Nesbitt. Except that Mike put the emphasis on suicide being not just an all-Ireland problem but a global problem, a problem that concerned all humanity. 

You see what he did there? Side-stepped the possibility that some headline today (or blogger) would announce “UUP leader calls for all-Ireland mental health initiative” by saying it’s a global problem. Of course it is undeniably global but you have to start somewhere and here in Ireland seems a sensible place.

What caught my attention was the extent to which politicians are prisoners of the electorate. When they speak, it’s always with one eye on the people who elect them and keep them in a job. So we’ll never know for sure whether Mike Nesbitt believes an all-Ireland initiative to counter suicide would be a good idea, because to say as much would be to commit political suicide.

In passing I should add that I was talking to Mike after the panel discussion and even though I’d once written a blog headed “Is Mike Nesbitt Mad?”  he still shook hands and was good-humoured and civilized. It’s  a teensy bit embarrassing to meet face-to-face with someone you’ve been highly critical of, but if you’re going to put words in the public domain you have to take the occasional omg moment. 

I also did a 3-minute interview with Danny Morrison, who is the chair of Féile an Phobail. If I manage to get the video up it’s worth listening to - how something that was born at a crisis point in our Troubles grew to be the healthy giant it is today. Grassroots up, you'll notice.

Right - I THINK this'll take you to the Danny Morrison interview: 



  1. Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm. —Publilius Syrus.
    Nesbitt et al need to take off their political straightjackets and trust their own judgement or moral compasses and do what's right for the common good,that's why they are in leadership positions.Sickness and illness don't discriminate.

  2. Of course you have fond memories of the Féile debates. I believe you won a wager with Mr Harris at one!

  3. Anon 23:52 - I completely agree. Unlike a lot of others, I think Mike Nesbitt has the potential to be a very good party leader if he'd stop looking over his shoulder and as you say trust his own judgement.

  4. Anon 10:01 - Fond? FOND? You mean leaping in the air and punching it and going 'Yeeeehaaaa!'....Sorry, got carried away for a moment there. Yes I do seem to vaguely remember some bet or other with someone whose name just won't come to mind for a sum I can't recall....

  5. Yes;Eoghan and yourself are now reconciled and he agreed to be interviewed for your book.However he's unlikely to take up any more offers of bets from your good self!

  6. There's a lot of background noise on the video but I suppose there weren't many quiet places to record.I have the impression it was a hurried interview.

  7. Anon 14:09 - you're right on both counts. But then it's content rather than form that is usually what matters.