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Galloway defiant as loyalists protest at Ulster Hall

(Suzanne Breen, Sunday Life)

George Galloway defiantly took to the stage of the Ulster Hall last night (Saturday) as loyalists protested outside but he said he wouldn't have cared had he been banned from the venue.

"Winston Churchill and the punk group The Clash were banned from the Ulster Hall – that wouldn't have been bad company for me to keep," he told Sunday Life.

"I'm not a bit fazed by the protest. I like the rough and tumble of politics. It is after all about deadly serious issues, matters of life-and-death.

"Protests and hecklers should bring out the best in any speaker worth their salt. I can give it and I can take it."

Around 200 pro-Israel protestors, joined by the DUP's Ruth Patterson and south Armagh victims' campaigner Willie Frazer, picketed the Ulster Hall amid a heavy police presence at the venue in Belfast city centre.

Dressed from head to toe in black, except for a crisp white shirt, and wearing his now trademark Fedora, the Respect MP said his gig last night was such a success he was planning to hold another public meeting in Derry's Millennium Forum.

In an exclusive interview with Sunday Life, Mr Galloway

  • said a police investigation into his remarks about making Bradford an Israel-free zone was "a political stunt going nowhere fast".
  • urged people in Northern Ireland to boycott Israeli goods to "show their disgust that every day more Palestinian children are being carried out of the rubble minus their heads".
  • called on the Stormont Executive and Invest Northern Ireland to stop supporting the US firm Caterpillar whose bulldozers are used by the Israeli military to raze Palestinian homes.
  • spoke of his surprisingly warm relationship with the Rev Ian Paisley and his son Ian jnr
  • said hes seriously considering running for Mayor of London and will announce his decision in October.

Mr Galloway said he was confident the police investigation into his call for Bradford to be made an "Israel free zone" would collapse: "I spoke to them without a lawyer. I had no need for a lawyer.

"The police said they'd 300 complaints against me. I could easily find 300,000 people who support me. But the law isn't the X-factor anyway. You don't get to vote on whether someone is prosecuted. I won't be charged because I didn't break the law."

The politician, who backs a boycott of Israeli food, said he was "hugely disappointed" that Invest Northern Ireland and the Stormont Executive had funded Caterpillar, the US firm with plants in Belfast and Larne which makes bulldozers used by the Israeli military to destroy Palestinian homes.

"That is a major mistake and I hope they stop supporting Caterpillar immediately," he said.

The Respect MP said he was "filled with loathing, disgust and fury" at ISIS's "grotesque" beheading of US journalist James Foley.

"But the ISIS the West opposes in Iraq is the same ISIS the West has funded, armed and trained in Syria against the Assad government.

"We must abandon this dangerous practice of embracing our enemy's enemy as our friend because it is always disastrous."

Mr Galloway said he felt at home in Belfast, the city where his grandfather was born. He also revealed his warm relationship with the Rev Ian Paisley.

"Most people expect us to detest each other but he never hated me and I never hated him. We have similar views on alcohol and gambling. We're both teetotallers.

"Once we were literally alone in the House of Commons lobby trying to stop the introduction of the national lottery. He said 'Fancy me and a wee Pape like you being the only Christians in the building. The rest are out drinking the devil's buttermilk.'

Mr Galloway said he had no time for Mr Paisley's successor: "Ian Paisley has immense charisma. Comparing him to Peter Robinson is like comparing night and day, or comparing Margaret Thatcher and John Major.

"I get on well with Paisley's son Ian jnr too. We have a common interest in defending cigarette packaging because we both have cigarette factories in our constituencies."

While loyalists protested outside the Ulster Hall, Mr Galloway was earlier mobbed by well-wishers at the Europa Hotel, including a bride and groom, who queued up for selfies with him.

August 27, 2014

This article appeared in the August 24, 2014 edition of the Sunday Life.

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