A “historic” debate took place at Laganview Enterprise Centre in Lisburn last Thursday in memory of former UDA leader John McMichael, who was killed in an IRA bomb attack 25 years ago (1987).
The event was organised by the UDA-linked Ulster Political Research Group and the debate was opened by loyalist leader Jackie McDonald
What distinguished this event was the composition of the panel contributing to the evening’s discussions. This included the following:
Mike Nesbitt, Ulster Unionist Party leader.
Jeffrey Donaldson, DUP MP for Lagan Valley.
Sean ‘Spike’ Murray, former senior IRA figure.
Paul Clissold, chairman of the South Belfast UPRG.
Conall McDevitt, SDLP MLA for South Belfast
Prominent Republicans Seanna Walsh, Harry Maguire, Jim Gibney and Loyalist leaders including – John Bunting, Jimmy Birch and Winston Irvine, were amongst others, who joined members of the McMichael family.
Also present were members of the Victims Forum and members of the clergy including Rev. Lesley Caroll and Rev. Harold Good.
Present too in the audience was Oscar-winning Belfast film director Terry George who spoke from the floor and who was clearly impressed by the quality of the evening’s debate.
Listen to the debate below or download the MP3:
Notable points for discussion are documented below:
(Times are indicated should you wish to listen to any specific point raised):
Introduction – (00.00): Jackie McDonald and Eamonn Mallie
The Panel – (05.51): Panel self introduction.
Question 1 – (17.40): Was john McMichael ‘Common Sense’ document a missed opportunity?
Question 2 – (27.33): The future of the Maze-Long Kesh site – will it become a shrine to Republicanism?
Question 3 – (41.55): Education attainment levels for working class Protestant children have been allowed to deteriorate – what is this devolved Government going to do about it?
Question 4 – (1.08.30): Has The Historical Enquiries Team (HET) helped to address the concerns and needs of the victims sector and do you accept that many people within the Loyalist community believe that the HET has in fact been a barrier to progress?
Question 5 – (1.39.33): What are the politicians putting in place for young people with limited qualification from working class areas where there are no jobs? What does the future hold for ‘us’?
Question 6 – (1.46.12): Why has the Orange Order remained outside the process of change and why does it not re-route its marches away form areas where it is not welcome?
Question 7 – (1.49.20): What are the politicians doing for people aged 30 plus?
Question 8 – (1.50.56): What are we doing to help the young people
(1.56.16): Terry George