Friday, 13 November 2009

Part of the real talking in East Belfast

Part of the real talking in East Belfast

I have blogged on several occasions about the ongoing themed discussions taking place in East Belfast, organised jointly by the Short Strand Partnership and East Belfast Mission.

I have been fortunate in that I have been able to attend each one so far, and these discussions along with ongoing engagement in various formats in the East really make for interesting insights.

The topics of the discussions, which have been held in both the Short Strand and the Newtonards Road have been ‘Constitutionally Different, Politically Similar?’, ‘Civil Rights or Civil Unrest?’, the last one was on the issue of Parading and the latest on the whole topic of Policing and Justice.

The panel was Brian Maguire (PSNI Superintendant South & East Belfast), Jeffrey Donaldson (DUP) and Alex Maskey (Sinn Féin).

If I’m honest, last nights debate was probably the most heated to date (and that’s certainly not to exaggerate it either because thankfully all of these nights have been respectful and measured). Given that on this occasion we were on the Newtonards Road I think it’s predictable that Alex got a lot of questions directed towards him, and that’s fair enough.

In saying all of that, the other two panellists didn’t get off easy, in particular Brian Maguire was challenged on the shared issue of concern around police effectiveness in this part of Béal Feirste. Just what were they doing to tackle anti-social behaviour, burglaries, the scourge of drugs? This was an issue raised by people from both the Short Strand and wider East Belfast. Towards the end of the night Jeffrey was challenged by an audience member who was most definitely opposed to DUP policy on sharing power with Sinn Féin, he indicated clearly his opposition to equality and partnership government and even predicted the DUP taking a hammering at the next election because of their stance on the issue; Jeffrey challenged him to put his name on the ballot in Lagan Valley next time round.

Other issues raised were the whole issue of the PSNI full time reserve, any threat posed by so called dissidents and when and how Policing and Justice Powers will be devolved.

Once again I enjoyed last night’s engagement; of course I took the opportunity to ask a question too! I look forward to many more and once again commend Joe and Gary for the work they are trying to do in relation to these discussions in trying to build a degree of respect and in my opinion most importantly understanding of each other’s position. It isn’t always easy, as last night proved; at times things can be frustrating and sometimes even depressing when we listen to the views of some who are still out there but at the end of the day that needs to happen in order to be overcome. We still have a fair deal of work ahead but I think events like last night’s and others will go someway in making sure we all have a say on where we are and where we are going.

Go n-eirí linn!!

some of us who attended the debate last night


  1. Good impartial report Niall, pity I wasn't there. DMcC

  2. Go raibh maith agat Donna, that's a compliment coming from yourself!!

    Yeah, they have been good events and will hopefully carry on well into the future!

  3. Brilliant stuff. This type work is a major part of building our future.