Last night at West Belfast Talks Back: Lan go doras/full house



I’ve been going to the Feile An Phobail’s ‘West Belfast Talks Back’ discussion for over – well over – ten years now. I was at it last night and I’ve never seen it so packed. Normally the crowd are there with an interest in seeing the odd-man/woman-out: the unionist representative, the anti-republican commentator. Not last night. Last night it was to see an Englishman who over the years has been unambiguously a socialist and unambiguously supportive of a united Ireland. Last night it was Jeremy Corbyn.

The chairperson Noel Thompson came in first, Corbyn came in last, and it’s true what they say: he got a rock star reception. On TV he sometimes looks frail, oldish if not old; in person he’ s oldish but vigorous oldish. Not wasting energy but using it effectively. You could see why they flock to hear him speak throughout England with crowds of 1500, 2000 wherever he goes. He’s clear in his policies: anti-austerity because it doesn’t work and instead inflicts hardship on those least able to bear it. Anti- plastic bullets and water-cannon, whether that’s here or in Britain: they are dangerous and can kill.

If someone other than Corbyn had been there, the focus of attention would probably have been the DUP’s Gavin Robinson. Which would have been depressing. A young man in the audience said he was a Gaeilgeoir and why wasn’t there an Irish Language Act.  Gavin Robinson told him “Maith thú” and that it was good to see  him having an interest of this kind and he was perfectly free to maintain and develop it. But no Irish Language Act –  even though this was part  of the St Andrew’s Agreement. A woman in the audience asked about the use of plastic bullets. Gavin Robinson said he was for their use, since they were non-lethal weapons (this after the woman had listed the number of people , including children, who’ve been killed by plastic bullets). When someone pointed out that some of the millions going to police the Camp Twaddell protest could be used to develop an Irish Language Act, he was told by Robinson that all it would take to end Camp Twaddell and its  costs was for the nationalist/republican community to stand aside for five minutes and let the march through. I’m not sure what age Gavin Robinson is but I’d guess the mid-thirties. Not-an-inch is alive and well and living in his head.

But more than counter-balancing that was the calm, articulate, emphatically stated vision of Jeremy Corbyn. Noel Thompson suggested it was fine to be idealistic but you had to be pragmatic. Corbyn’s reply:  you face pragmatic decisions every day in your life, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be guided by clear principles.

Two polar opposites:  Gavin Robinson, a  younger man with all the attitudes of an amiable unionist politician from the 1950s. Jeremy Corbyn: an older man with a clear vision of the kind of society he believes is worthwhile and plans as to how it might be achieved. Still, maybe like realism, peace comes dropping slow. The fact that Robinson was seated beside Sinn Féin’s  Eoin O Broin without being overly  stony-faced is progress of a kind. Isn’t it?

, ,

22 Responses to Last night at West Belfast Talks Back: Lan go doras/full house

  1. BaldyBapTheBarber August 6, 2015 at 9:19 am #

    As you already mentioned Jude, Jeremy Corbyn got a great reception as he made his way in, his presence made it for me it really was exciting to see him; a great coup for Féile an Phobail. I was very impressed with Jeremy Corbyn myself and the thing that struck me the most was the way he answered the questions; he was rapid and precise, I don’t think he hesitated once! A great night for west Belfast.

  2. Séamus Ó Néill August 6, 2015 at 9:30 am #

    Politics is allegedly the art of compromise but I see no accommodation arising from Camp Twaddell. Like Drumcree , Dunloy etc , by being being insistent on occupying that imaginary moral and religious high ground the OO have metaphorically shot themselves in the foot again….as the days pass and having backed themselves into a brick wall the chances of a “return” are fading fast. Vladimir Putin wisely said that “The ability to compromise is not a diplomatic politeness toward a partner but rather taking into account and respecting your partner’s legitimate interests. If the OO adopted this attitude I think the situation would be transformed overnight !

    • Ryan August 6, 2015 at 6:25 pm #

      The Orange Order and to an extent the Unionist community in general have a “Siege Mentality”, even Peter Robinson agreed that was the case. This 17th century outlook is why they have a “not an inch” outlook, they think that anything that benefits Nationalism/Catholics must inevitably mean its bad for Unionism/Protestants.

      It all stems from the age of the Protestant Ascendancy in Ireland, where Protestants were the privileged few, at the deliberate disadvantage of the majority Catholics. The Catholics had to be kept down and were kept down for centuries. Those times and politics are long, long gone. Unfortunately the outlook/views of those times certainly are not, especially amongst the Orange Order, hence why any kind of compromise is seen as benefiting Nationalism/Catholics and disadvantaging Unionism/Protestants, even though in reality its good to both sides.

  3. Francis Duffin August 6, 2015 at 10:13 am #

    The membership fee is pence, but time is pressing. If people in Ireland, north or south wish to have any chance of pushing Jeremy Corbyn over the line in the Labourship contest.
    Under new rules it is one member one vote. There seems little geographical hindrances’ for anyone joining.

    Larkin, Connolly, Pragmatism and the chance of electing a true Socialist friend of Ireland, are all compelling reasons, and we shouldn’t perhaps ignore this chance to bring to power Corbyn in the opposition in Britain. We cannot vote on our own President in Ireland. But we can vote on something over in Britain that can make a real difference to Ireland, and the left here and there.

    • dinah August 8, 2015 at 8:21 pm #

      This is my first post. Please excuse my dislexia.
      It is important to understand the nature of citizenship. Citizenship is about having a sense, (contractual, but also emotionally intuative) that you actively participate in the direction that a body of citizens takes. Underwriting this is the assumption that a body of citizens must collectively protect and promote the interests of other citizens.

      I think that citizenship is about belonging and being included, so if you are deprived of the basic services to which a nation aspires (for example, justice, health, education) you are not fully a citizen, either contractually or intuatively. To bring about a situation where you can ensure that you and others can avail of their rights as citizens is a duty. In this sense, citizenship actually has little to do with demographic, or national bounderies. It is more to do with having a sense of bellonging within a comunity, both localy, and perhaps nationaly, but it’s duties also encompas global citizenship. If a person of any nation finds themselves displaced, disadvantaged, or intimidated withing a specific comunity with no protection from the law or it’s agents, they have, contractualy, lost citizenship. How they feel and behave will change.

      Voting in this particular Labour, left wing candidate is, at this moment, a move toward ensuring that all citizens remain just so, citizens. It will help to ensure that the definition of citizenship is ‘real’ enough to transend national boundries. It is compatable with the idea of permanant revolution, which seeks to rectify the disparities that occure between the rich and the poor, those who enjoy privilage, and those who’s lives are cursed by fundamental inequalities.

      • Emmet August 9, 2015 at 4:47 am #

        Very well summed up Dinah, I like your definition of citizenship. I think you have summed up why a lot of nations have completely missed the real idea behind citizenship. In our era it has come to mean the right to work and be eligible for benefits.

        • dinah August 9, 2015 at 5:50 pm #

          Well yes. Certainly, especially where people are relatively priviliged. I think our era has a general orientation toward the aquisition of financial, rather than social capital. At the same time, some ocupations are far more valuale to others (and more challenging) than is reflected in the type of recognition that people receive. Also, some people are assumed to be permanently damaged by a failiure to protect them (I am not talking about trivial issues such as a lack of luxury goods and gadgets here, I am talking about issues concerning real trauma, neglect, exclusion and abuse). I am sure that a great deal more could be done to help people to recognise and recover from these injuries and injustices, but we seem to find it hard even to begin to recognise our collective failings in such matters. Again, if you stand these instances alongside the type of things that happen to masses of people in large swaiths of the world, the scale of suffering is quite mind numbing. Still, justice is important where-so-ever a person resides, and effective reperations may be necessary where people have been hurt (though not necessarily financial). I certainly agree that the current focus upon financial gain in every strata leaves our world utterly askew, and is a problem that every citizen should seek to address.

  4. Iolar August 6, 2015 at 10:51 am #

    Rhetoric and reality

    At 8.15am, on 6 August 1945, the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima killing 80,000 people instantly and another 60,000 in the months that followed.

    Governments declare: “We don’t negotiate with terrorists!”, when confronted by bomb attacks, hijackings and kidnapping,arguing that any dialogue with them would be immoral, if not impossible.

    In1971 Edward Heath sent Frank Steele, an Intelligence Officer to talk to the IRA and find out what common ground there was for negotiations. Steele had carried out secret talks ahead of the British withdrawal from Kenya. These talks were ongoing even when British Prime Minister John Major told parliament “it would turn my stomach to talk to the IRA.”

    The Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abo, vows to introduce a nuclear disarmament proposal to the United Nations. Mr Corbyn wishes to “cut” spending on Trident Nuclear Weapons and spend money on public services. Speed the day when we see the Ministry of Defence obliged to undergo ‘Arms Reform’.

    Political initiatives were thin on the ground during the reign of Baron Merlyn-Rees, Baron Mason of Barnsley, and Baron Murray of Epping Forest and by the sound of it we can expect more of the same from ‘Not So New Labour’. Ms Harman has ordered Labour MPs to check membership lists for infiltrators. I guess Auntie Austerity will not be allowed to join the ‘Labour’ Party. Well, as it happens, she lives in Scotland.

  5. billy August 6, 2015 at 11:10 am #

    people must be easy pleased listening to jeremy,he wins beard of the year comps,drives a pushbike,hugs trees,ect is in everything but the crib not forgetting to claim expenses of course,hed be classed as an oul idiot by the majority of people in belfast.

  6. Perkin Warbeck August 6, 2015 at 12:00 pm #

    That’s another point of similarity between those of you up there in Nornveveland, Esteemed Blogmeister, and those of us down here in the FSS.

    As exemplified by the p-word: whereas you have plastic bullets we have plastic Paddies.

    One was reminded of that on perusing Dec ‘The Neck’ Lynch’s critically acclaimed column in the Sindo last Sundy: ‘Game for a Scaff’. This column took on the shape of what has now become an annual ritual in B.O: ‘The Premier League is back next week and we give thanks for the end of the hell that is summer’.

    (For hell read: bogball and stickfighting season, two coinages of Dec’s late, lamented colleague and Bootyful Game zealot, George ‘Frogman’ Byrne. For B.O. one has a choice: Biodegradable Oirland or Britannia Occidental).

    Of course, Dec’s own great coinage and lasting addition to the lexicography of Hiberno-Ireland is: Eejitry. Strange as it may sound, however, the term ‘plastic Paddy’ is not included in this extensive dictionary.

    Thus, we shall be compelled, for the next endless eight months, to listen to the brogue of such broths of boyos, as Tony Cascarino, Ray ‘Hoots Mon’ Houghton and Mark Lawrencon introducing as many ‘we’s’ into their punditry about ‘our’ football team’s chances as there are in an average public urinal. And to listen with a, erm, straight face.No eejitry there.

    Plastic Pat Kenny is always happy to afford Dec ‘The Neck’, his fellow plump-funded apple polisher in DOBland a regular platform on his well-upholstered wireless programme to grapple with the G-word. To ventilate his visceral detestation for the Gaelic, whether as in game or in language or music.

    No matter whether the G-word is expressed in uilleann pipes or in mahogany gaspipes, under the benign patronage of Patronising Pat the Sindo’s Playboy of the West British World is invariably given free rein to pronounce it all a ‘loy’.

    (That would be ‘lie’ in the Q’s English,m’lud as spoke in the anus mundi of Dec’s Athlone).

    Patronising Pat this very morning had to go into plastic clothes peg on the nose mode when he encountered the Lord Mayor of Dublin out in the rarefied air of the RDS for the critically acclaimed Horse Show. And was compelled to conduct an unavoidable interview with same.

    Sinn Fein’s Criona Ni Dhalaigh (mar is i a bhi inti !) wasn’t long in letting the Plastic One know she’d much prefer /b’fhearr go mor lei if she was referred to as ‘Ardmheara Bhaile Atha Cliath’ but could handle the anglicised version.

    She then let slip something, the irony of which seemed to have bye-passed Plastic Pat . On being interrogated as to what was all this plan of her’s to establish a Gaeltacht area on Liffeyside, Ardmheara Criona revealed she had been to Belfast yesterday to see how they set about the task Up There.

    Clearly, this is not the person to re-unite this island as a Partnership in Plastics.

    Perhaps the tipping point has been reached where the good offices of another Clinton must be called upon for assistance.: Hill rather than Bill.

    Once she has been installed in the White House as the First Woman President and only the Second Clinton in history to reach this ultimate summit, the Gavin Robisons and the Declan Lycnches of this world might look to Hill as the Great White Knightess.

    She has, one understands, a certain pre-eminence in, erm, plastics.

  7. Andy Lindsay August 6, 2015 at 12:41 pm #

    What is so difficult about Ardoyne residents standing aside for a few minutes?

    • Francis August 6, 2015 at 11:19 pm #

      Why is it so difficult for Loyalists to realise, that Anti-Catholic Supremacists lording it up the Fenians with abysmal behaviour, with paramilitary bands celebrating sectarian scoundrels who murdered so many random innocent Catholics in the Area, coat trailing, jeering rednecks passing through houses they are not wanted. Why Andy, with all due respect to yourself, don’t they Eff Off and play the Famine songs to people who might warm to such overt hatred. Time for Equality. Not wanted, don’t go there. Why take the buses the whole way back from The Field, just to get out to March through the top of Ard Eoin m?? Therein lies some of your answer to the motivation if these Alabama Clansmen.

  8. cushy glen August 6, 2015 at 4:11 pm #

    I sense Corbyn is the right person at the right time.
    With Corbyn as Labour leader things may begin to loosen up in British/English politics & that can only be a good thing for Ireland (north & south).

    • billy August 6, 2015 at 5:34 pm #

      surely hes part of the problem how could that be a good thing for ireland,

    • Francis August 6, 2015 at 11:34 pm #

      Absolutely Cushy Glen. We should also help vote him in I strongly believe. We can’t sit on the fence, when pragmatism requires us to stop the New labour Right, mirroring the Tories in opposition. Here is a good man. A humanitarian and Socialist who presents an alternative. If he is elected, the game changes. In Ireland, as well as Britain there will be hope of an alternative. Joining the Labour Party for the Vote on the Leadership election, empowers us to help change the extent status quo.

  9. Ryan August 6, 2015 at 7:00 pm #

    Gavin Robinson looks like such a gentle giant. Young, clean cut, fresh complexion, etc if I didn’t know what party he was a member of I would guess he was either in the Alliance party or the SDLP. Instead he’s part of the DUP. More likely the most extreme party in this corner of Ireland. Its got to the point where its hard to tell the difference between the DUP and the Orange Order because the Orange Order holds such influence in the party: What the Orange Order ultimately says goes and is final. Is Gavin Robinson in the Orange Order? I’m not sure but I think he is. There again the odd’s are he IS in the Orange Order, given that half of all Unionist elected representatives here are members of the extremist protestant organisation.

    Gavin says there will be no Irish Language Act but yet it was agreed upon in the St Andrews Agreement. But yet I’m sure Gavin would still demand respect and tolerance from Irish Nationalists for “Orange culture” and Loyalist parades going near sensitive interfaces. Gavin certainly has the hypocrisy gene that is very abundant within the DUP and Unionism in general.

    Then when it comes to plastic bullets, Gavin supports the use of those. Would he still support the use of those if they were fired at crowds of rioting loyalists in the area where he’s elected MP? and it seriously injured and killed people? Somehow I doubt Gavin would. Something tells me Gavin, like the rest within the DUP, would rather plastic bullets be fired just at nationalists, as the vast majority were during the troubles while they were used very little when it came to Unionist/Loyalists crowds by the then RUC.

    Then Gavin wants Nationalists (as I mentioned before) to show tolerance and let the Orange men parade at Ardoyne. This is despite the sectarianism that omits from Camp Twaddell over the past 2 years, the deliberate erecting of flags to provoke, from Union flags to Parachute regiment flags and the playing of the sectarian famine song. This isn’t touching on the sectarianism and abuse thrown at Ardoyne residents from the parade itself (i’ll post footage of such below). And of course, Gavin wants all this while he will refuse to respect Irish culture by supporting an Irish Language Act. Would Gavin support a republican parade going along the very same stretch of road that the return Orange Parade wants to go along? I doubt he would, since his colleague, William Humphrey MLA said he wouldn’t support such a parade on the Nolan TV show when asked by republican commentator Chris Donnelly (again, i’ll post footage of this below).

    Gavin Robinson may be young but his views are as old as the hills themselves, that’s maybe why he’s rose so quickly up within the DUP at such a young age.

    Why the Orange return parade at Ardoyne was banned:

    We demand to march there but them’uns cant – William Humphrey MLA:

    • Francis August 6, 2015 at 10:13 pm #

      Well said Ryan. Thanks for the links.

    • Neill August 7, 2015 at 7:26 am #

      Tell me Ryan which party in Stormont has been found guilty of discrimination? Give you a little clue it wasn’t any of the unionist parties to make it even easier for you the main culprit was recently put back into Stormont…

      You will have to put with the orange order in exactly the same way we have to put up with SF in Government I view SF in exactly the same way you view the orange order.

      • RJC August 7, 2015 at 3:42 pm #

        Quite a telling comment there Neill, equating as it does SF with the OO. Like them or not, Sinn Féin are a democratically elected political party whereas the Orange Order are not.

        The OO are instead an unelected sectarian fraternal Masonic-style ‘brotherhood’ who have absolutely no place in a modern functioning democracy. Mind you, Unionism has never been especially big on democracy has it?

        • neill August 8, 2015 at 9:05 am #

          Ah yes the old argument that unionist parties don’t believe in democracy at least they didn’t support the bombing and shooting campaign still we should be happy that Sf have converted to democracy no matter how late in the day

          • Emmet August 8, 2015 at 9:54 am #

            Sinn Fein has always been a political party and by definition democratic. I think you’ll find that the unionist parties were very supportive of bombing and shooting. I believe many people have pointed that out to you before Neill. Miami show band, Dublin -Monaghan, Gibraltar, Ballymurphy, Bloody Sunday etc. to name but a few. The British government came to the point where they were willing to negotiate with republicans; that is when the republican movement decided that wholly democratic means and institutions should be used to achieve unification, freedom, justice and equality. The republican movement came to that conclusion well before the British government. As for democracy, I think you’ll find that the state of N. Ireland arose out of a very undemocratic act. On the point of discrimination, are you serious Neill? Gerrymandering, rigging the voting system, not allocating housing to Catholics, calling for Catholics not to be employed. Unionism is build on discrimination. I also remember a Catholic DUP winning a discrimination case against the DUP. I don’t think you can even believe what you write Neill. It is not possible for someone to be that deluded. If you want to become a republican and convert to democracy Neill you will be made to feel very welcome.

  10. Colmán August 6, 2015 at 10:45 pm #

    Look I don’t think it is worth getting tangled up in a debate with this man about Irish. Even if he was in favour of it himself his party would never allow him to say that. The fact is that Gavin is not an expert in socio linguistics and therefore he is not qualified to say whether or not an Irish Language Act has merit or not without taking such advice from a linguist. Anybody that has spent even a small amount of time studying socio-linguistics would tell you that an officially recognised language protected by legislation is more likely to thrive and survive. A case in point being the recognition of the Irish language as one of the Official Language of the EU. Since obtaining this status Microsoft, Twitter, Google, Facebook, have all been translated to Irish. The Chinese government even provides Irish lessons now for those studying European culture. Who could argue this hasn’t been good for the language. Irish is now spoken daily in the European parliament and included in all documentation – the young school pupil at the local Gaelscoil is now represented on an international level. But his/her local government still doggedly refuse to recognised his existence.