Always Worth Saying’s Question Time Review

Question Time 26th May 2022

The Panel:

Robert Buckland (Conservative)
Peter Kyle (Labour)
Emma Little-Pengelly (DUP)
Naomi Long (Alliance Party)
John Finucane (Sinn Fein)

Venue: Belfast

Although originally one of the Falls Road Finucanes, John grew up in the not so mean streets of North Belfast’s exclusive Fortwilliam Drive.

His parents, Pat and Geraldine, had married in 1979 after graduating from Trinity College, Dublin, where Geraldine had studied English, Philosophy and Geography while Pat graduated in English, French and Philosophy before qualifying in law and becoming an IRA staff lawyer.

As well as being tasked to manipulate the legal process to keep Irish republican murders out of jail, Finucane Senior made life difficult for the British State in the European courts, with endless legal aid funded compensation claims and by opposing anti-terrorist legislation.

Part of a notorious nationalist family, during the Troubles two of John’s uncles (one a former fiance of Gibraltar bomber Mairead Farrell), were handed long prison sentences for possession of firearms and were suspects in more serious terrorist attacks.

Another, described in a death notice in the Irish News as a section leader in the Provisional IRA, was killed in a hijacked car when it crashed into a lampost on the Falls Road.

Unfortunately for Pat, if a humble reviewer can find his house so can naughty boys who might ring his doorbell and run away, scratch his car or, as on the night of the 12th February 1989, knock down his front door with a sledgehammer and shoot him dead.

A decade later, Pat Finucane’s successor as the Provisional’s legal eagle, Rosemary Nelson, was killed by a bomb placed under her car.

Following in the family tradition, John is also a graduate in law and is Sinn Fein Member of Parliament for North Belfast. Along with the other Republican MPs, he does not take up his Westminster seat but claims expenses (that you pay for) all the same.

A brief summary of millionaire John and Sinn Fein’s money-making scams (that you pay for) via the legal and political processes can be found in a January 2021 edition of QT Review linked here.

Although a senior member, MP and former Lord Mayor of Belfast, John is not the leader of Sinn Fein. Neither is high profile Michelle O’Neill, who in the small print is described as a spokesperson. Sinn Fein remains under the control of the original IRA Army Council in the South. This begs the question, why should a foreign organisation, very hostile to us, have a say in British politics? A question brought to the fore after the May 5th elections when Sinn Fein failed to increase their representation in the Ulster Assembly (they hold 27 seats out of 90) but became the biggest party as the Unionist vote is split between three parties and the DUP and UUP lost 4 seats.

In response to the first question, regarding Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s announcement of a windfall tax on energy companies, John Finucane welcomed the development but feared a delay in its implementation in the province due to the lack of a sitting assembly.

Peter Kyle (Labour) took credit for today’s announcement and claimed the delay (since he first had the idea) had cost consumers £53 million a day. He continued to churn his special advisor’s briefing notes by extrapolating wages growth from the last Labour government, a mere twelve years ago, to suggest each of us is £11,000 worse off under the Tories.

Emma Little-Pengelly (DUP) also welcomed yet more tax and reminded us this had been in the DUP’s manifesto for the May 5th elections. She wanted the money to be targeted at those who need it most.

Lush Emma Little-Pengelly hails from lush Markethill, County Armagh, a pleasant settlement tucked beside the historic country estate and castle of the Ulster plantation Earls of Gosford.

Grammar school girl Emma is a graduate of Queen’s University, Belfast, and a qualified barrister. Previously a special advisor to the Reverend Ian Paisley, Emma became a member of the Ulster Assembly in 2015 and the Democratic Unionist Party MP for Belfast South in 2017.

Her husband, Richard Pengelly is a senior Northern Ireland civil servant. Her father, the interesting Noel Little, wasn’t a Loyalist Resistance gun runner despite being the organisation’s leader and being arrested in a Parisian hotel in 1989 alongside a South African diplomat and an American arms dealer.

Despite his innocence, Noel was convicted in a French court and given a two year suspended prison sentence.

A 2019 BBC Spotlight documentary claimed Noel visited Geneva in 1987 with $120,000 and a ‘shopping list of arms’.

In the documentary Mr Little, pictured here on the extreme right dressed in combats and beret, insisted to viewers he was never an arms buyer and “not a supporter of violence of any kind”.

Typical Conservatives, barked a typical Ulster lady of a certain age from the audience. This announcement is a deliberate distraction from Sue Gray’s Partygate report.

Somebody said ‘N’orn Irn’, in a sentence that wondered how the province would administer a new tax given the Ulster Assembly isn’t sitting.

A blind man on a galloping horse could see this was a distraction because of Partygate, announced Naomi Long (Alliance Party). It doesn’t go far enough, she added.

One doesn’t like to comment on a lady’s weight, but a blind man on a horse galloping through outer space could see Naomi Long.

£20,000 an hour Chair (Fiona Bruce) found someone in the theatre who was skipping meals to pay the energy bills. No, it wasn’t Naomi Long.

They’re all wrong. The problem is the speculative nature of the energy market. A perfect market consists of supply and demand. But nothing in life is perfect. Marketplaces also include fear, greed, hubris, political interference, superstition (yes, that means you, global warming) etc etc etc. We must sell domestically produced energy (gas, oil, nuclear, ‘renewables’) to our own consumers on a ‘costs plus’ (cost of production plus a modest profit margin) basis. Bypassing the speculative wholesale energy market will cut prices.

The next question addressed sovereignty and the Northern Ireland protocol. As if a gentle query about history or football, some of the Belfast audience booed.

Emma was grieved. It was two years since Brexit and more protocol is yet to be implemented, such as checking people’s personal luggage. Enough is enough, the protocol needs re-negotiated now.

There was an expert in the audience who said the protocol was clear, and would always involve border-style checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea.

She’s wrong as well.

There are and always have been checks at the Irish border. For example, try getting a van full of booze and ciggies from Belfast to Dublin.

An obvious solution would be to carry out spot checks on those suspected of rule-breaking, rather than insist every movement requires a mountain of paperwork. The present muddle is nothing to do with the practical movement of goods but is a result of a vexatious interpretation of the agreement by the EU and the Irish Government.

John claimed the protocol wasn’t forced upon the UK by the EU.

He’s wrong as well. The EU’s negotiating strategy was ‘nothing’s decided until everything’s decided’, blocking the Brexit agreement until passed with a Brussels built-in border booby trap included.

Naomi said the majority of people in Northern Ireland didn’t vote for Brexit. So what? Our membership of the EU was a UK membership. She didn’t want to throw the protocol out as it would jeopardise our whole trading agreement with the EU.

If Emma Pengelly-Little is gently rolling countryside then Naomi Long is a mountain range dividing tectonic plates. The super-sized former MP and one time Lord Mayor of Belfast is currently the MLA for Belfast East and Ulster’s Minister for Justice.

Another graduate of Queen’s University, Belfast, in the interests of diversity and equality of opportunity, Naomi’s husband Michael is an Alliance Party councillor and current Lord Mayor of Belfast.

Peter wanted to negotiate with the brick wall that is Brussels. Patience, tradecraft, graft, he suggested while offering no practical solution.

Some in the audience thought this could be better achieved if the Unionists formed an administration with Sinn Fein in the Ulster Assembly but others preferred the protocol altered first.

An audience member pointed out the issue wasn’t the protocol but the province’s position within the UK. Panellists argued over the collapse of the last assembly which Finucane blamed on financial scandal (renewable heat?) and Emma blamed on Sinn Fein’s intransigence over the Irish language.

Question three was about the Sue Gray Partygate report. A slightly loaded question it wondered which is more important, saying goodbye to work colleagues or saying goodbye to loved ones as they are dying? It was also a daft question as a hospital is full of venerable people, many with Covid, whereas a workplace is full of fit and healthy people who would not be there if they hadn’t tested negative for the virus.

Robert Buckland (Conservative) praised Sue Gray while he rambled. He had asked Boris a direct question and had been happy with the answer. He didn’t actually tell us what the question or answer was, but it did sound as though Robert hadn’t been invited to the parties. Had Robert submitted a letter of no confidence in Mr Johnson, wondered Bruce? No. I don’t do skullduggery and plotting, the Tory politician assured the Chair.

John said Boris makes and breaks agreements and operates in a partisan fashion. He has no mandate in Northern Ireland and is not trusted by the public. A Naomi lookalike, unsurprisingly defining as a front line nurse, said she hadn’t seen her family for three months and had spent Xmas day on her own. She had a take-home message. In health care, it doesn’t matter what side of the political divide you’re on, all are equal.

Big Naomi felt her pain. There is a deep sense of entitlement within the Tories because of Boris. You can say goodbye to colleagues without fighting and throwing up on the walls.

They hate him, don’t they. Forget about Partygate, it’s because of Brexit and particularly because the fourth rate nonentities in the political elite in general, and on Question Time in particular, no longer have sleepwalking the Brussels gravy train as part of their career path. This humble reviewer has said it before and will say it again, one almost hopes the useless over-sexed Turkish waiter lasts forever just to torment them.

A gentleman in the audience didn’t believe any politicians, they were all liars. Even the panel? asked Bruce. Yes, even the panel (and the BBC as well he could have added).

Law makers should not be law breakers, said Emma. Erm, Sinn Fein IRA have been in Ulster Assembly since day one!

Jake called Boris a reckless and incompetent liar. He passed upon the opportunity to judge the bombers, murderers, bank robbers and extortionists of Sinn Fein IRA.

Peter Kyle is Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the openly gay MP for Hove, near Brighton. When not solving the Irish Problem, Mr Kyle presents Brighton’s gay Oscars.

A perpetual quango land and charadee wallah, Mr Kyle’s interest in youth has seen him a governor of Brighton Aldridge Youth Community College and Chief Executive of the Working For Youth Charity. He also claims to have been an aid worker in Eastern Europe, helping himself to young people through The Body Shop Foundation’s Children On The Edge charidee.

One more question. Trigger warning. If you are Noel Little look away now.

What would a future united Ireland look like? The questioner self-defined as a ‘soft unionist’ and thought it worth considering, in the way that the effects of Brexit might have been better considered in advance of the Brexit agreement.

Fincucaen wanted a cross border citizen’s assembly and a clarification on what might trigger a referendum. He thought there would be a border poll in the near future with Brexit as the trigger. There would be a ‘new Ireland’ not just the rubbing out a line on the map. All of the Unionist’s safeguards under the Good Friday Agreement would remain.

You don’t trust Boris but you trust the IRA?

Emma declared herself a proper Unionist and thought it best to stay in UK. She didn’t want to debate the destruction of Northern Ireland.

Since the Good Friday Agreement thirty years ago, Naomi said, Northern Ireland people define differently. 20% of the representatives elected on May 5th aren’t Unionists or Nationalists. But 80% of them are, Naomi.

Jake thought the Union was a force for good. Westminster must deliver rather than look repulsive because of Boris and the Tories.

Big Naomi. You know when something important is happening and all you can think of is something daft? All the way through the programme I couldn’t help but think. No matter what the topic. Naomi was sat at one end of the panel. All I could think was, what if they were all on a bench instead of seats? Poor Emma sat at the other end could have ended up in another county. Sorry.

References & Further Reading

John Finucane and the IRA’s human rights violations
Interview With Geraldine Finucane
Dad of DUP MP Emma Little-Pengelly

© Always Worth Saying 2022

The Goodnight Vienna Audio file