It’s good to talk

By David Whelan

OVER 300 people turned out to watch the BBC’s Noel Thompson referee the latest annual installment of the ever popular West Belfast Talks Back at St Louise’s last night.

UUP MLA and Minister for Regional Development Danny Kennedy was joined by the Minister for Education, Sinn Féin’s John O’Dowd, in representing the political side of the panel, while Fr Tim Bartlett of the Catholic Church and Presbyterian Minister Rev Dr Leslie Carroll made up the rest of the lively panel.

The floor was open to all lines of questioning but it was in Gaza rather than Belfast where the debate started heating up. John O’Dowd’s passionate support for the people of Palestine was welcomed by the crowd.

Danny Kennedy appeared coy in presenting his personal and party views on the issue of gay marriage and equality raised by an LGBT activist in the audience but it was from the clerics that starkly differing stances meant for interesting listening.

The Development Minister wasn’t so softly spoken when it came to speaking about the latest budget cuts to his and other departments, as part of the June monitoring round and talks of Scottish independence once again raised the issue of green and orange politics in the North.

There was no more fitting a way to end talks that could have continued longer than on the topic of Haass and a reflective light applause greeted Mr Kennedy when he declared: “no party has worked harder and has it cost more to achieve political peace in Northern Ireland than the UUP.”

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