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DUPís attempt to gag Galloway is hypocritical

(Suzanne Breen, Sunday Life)

The DUP wants a politician banned from addressing an Ulster Hall meeting because the MP is "irresponsible".

The speaker has a history of making controversial comments and it's feared that, in sensitive times, he could say something which would raise tensions and incite hatred.

How on earth is the DUP managing to keep a straight face on this one? Of all our political parties, it's the one with the least right to gag George Galloway.

When it comes to rabble rousing, inflammatory speeches, and raising the political temperature, its politicians could teach the Bradford West MP a thing or two.

It's not as if Galloway is planning to don a red beret and launch a shadowy group.

It was in the Ulster Hall where DUP leading lights, including Peter Robinson, queued up to speak at the launch of Ulster Resistance in 1986.

Galloway's comments about declaring Bradford "an Israel free-zone" in response to the onslaught in Gaza have secured heavy criticism.

So imagine the outrage had he said Israelis "breed like rabbits and multiply like vermin", to borrow the Rev Ian Paisley's phrase about Catholics in 1969.

Not that we have to go that far back to see the DUP's record in sensitive situations.

With gay men and women in Northern Ireland suffering widespread discrimination, Iris Robinson stepped in to say they were worse than paedophiles.

"There can be no viler act – apart from homosexuality and sodomy – than sexually abusing innocent children," she declared.

How can the DUP spring to the defence of Pastor McConnell, who has called Muslims "the spawn of the devil" and branded gays "perverts" but then denounce Galloway for far less incendiary comments?

Personally, I'm on the side of free speech for Pastor McConnell and George Galloway. Offensive opinions aren't hate crimes and the DUP should thank its lucky stars that's so because otherwise many of its members would be in big trouble.

The party has every right to picket Galloway next weekend but they've no right to censor him. And if they protest outside the Ulster Hall, they should perhaps take a peek inside too.

Because the Bradford West MP, even his fiercest detractors acknowledge, is one of the great orators of contemporary politics. His performances in public halls, the House of Commons, or BBC Question Time are always tours de force.

"Saturday Night With George Galloway" is sold out. Who would predict the same were it 'Saturday Night With Peter Robinson'?

August 18, 2014

This article appeared in the August 17, 2014 edition of the Sunday Life.

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