Arts

Big name line-up for Féile an Phobail debates and discussions programme

Féile an Phobail debates and discussions committee chairman Professor Bill Rolston with members of the debates group and sponsors

MORE than 70 events will take place in west Belfast over the next 10 days as part of Féile an Phobail's Debates and Discussions programme, starting today with talks at on topics including Martin McGuiness, the 1970 arms trial and whether or not Theresa May's 'magic money tree' exists.

High-profile figures such as former British government chief of staff Jonathon Powell, ANC veteran Albie Sachs, English journalist and political commentator Paul Mason, Victims Commissioner Judith Thompson, Fine Gael senator Neale Richmond, Gerry Adams TD, Police Ombudsman Michael Maguire and historian and Irish News columnist Dr Eamon Phoenix will participate in various events.

“From the start, Féile decided that the festival would contain not only the usual elements such as music, drama and sport, but that there would also be a significant element of political discussion," the festival's debates and discussions committee chairman Professor Bill Rolston said.

"We have come a long way since, but one thing remains the same – the commitment to high quality talks and discussion."

Issues including Brexit, a border poll and the economy are major topics this year.

“The line-up is of a very high calibre and inclusive of all. Every debate and discussion is free to attend with no tickets required and we are issuing an open invite to all to come to Féile and join us in debating and discussing all the hot topics of the day," Prof Rolston said.

“If you are serious about it, you won't have time for anything else in the first week of August except to be at Feile's discussions and debates."

Among the highlights of the debates and discussions programme, most of whose events take place at St Mary's University College on the Falls Road, are:

:: THE LEADERS' DEBATE

Tuesday August 7, 7pm

Key figures in the leadership of political parties on the island will present their views. UUP leader Robin Swann MLA, Fianna Fáil Brexit spokesperson Lisa Chambers TD, DUP MLA Simon Hamilton, Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD, Fine Gael Minister for Health Simon Harris TD, Alliance leader Naomi Long MLA and SDLP leader Colum Eastwood MLA will all be on the panel.

:: THE GOOD FRIDAY AGREEMENT: THE WOMEN IN THE ROOM

Saturday August 4, 3pm

Former Women's Coalition leader Monica McWilliams, Former SDLP MLA Bríd Rodgers, Sinn Féin vice-president Michelle Ó'Neill and former PUP MLA Dawn Purvis on the panel along with tributes to the late Mo Mowlam and Siobhan O'Hanlon.

:: A WARM HOUSE FOR UNIONISTS?

Thursday August 9, 7pm

Panelists, all from unionist backgrounds, will discuss if a united Ireland can be a warm house for unionists. Panel members are Dr Jim Dornan, Sophie Long, David Honeyford and Mike Nesbitt MLA.

:: You can view the full Debates and Discussions line-up in the Féile at http://www.feilebelfast.com/feile_belfast_2018_full_programme/Feile_2018.pdf

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