George Galloway all clear to speak at Belfast event

George Galloway is due to speak at the Ulster Hall next Saturday
George Galloway is due to speak at the Ulster Hall next Saturday

Controversial MP George Galloway has been cleared to host a speaking engagement at Belfast’s Ulster Hall next Saturday.

The building is owned by Belfast City Council who ordered a review of the decision to grant permission for the event.

The Ulster Hall

The Ulster Hall

Some unionists objected to Mr Galloway’s appearance after the Respect MP deemed his Bradford constituency an “Israel-free zone” – and called for the rejection of everything Israeli.

In a statement released on Friday, a council spokeswoman said: “Following a request for a review of the decision to grant the use of the Ulster Hall for an event involving George Galloway, Belfast City Council has received legal advice confirming that any decision to terminate the contract in question is likely to lead to a claim for breach of contract and/or a challenge by way of judicial review in respect of freedom of expression.

“The event will, therefore, proceed as planned.”

Earlier this week Mr Galloway said he had a commercial contract with the Ulster Hall, which had been signed and sealed and would be delivered, and the event would go ahead except on terms of very severe compensation.

He told the BBC: “A great deal of money has already been spent, the tickets are going like hot cakes, so a great deal of income would be lost and that would be a very bad deal for the taxpayers in Belfast.”

In Northern Ireland many unionists have expressed support for Israel’s right to defend itself against rockets from Gaza, while nationalists broadly oppose Israel’s response and highlight the human cost.

Despite the show going ahead, councillor Brian Kingston of the DUP said he had “no regrets” about “highlighting the incendiary views of Galloway”.

Mr Kingston said: “City Council officers have confirmed that legal advice received does not support the termination of this booking due to the likelihood of legal action resulting. Whilst we have received support from some other political parties, it is clear that numbers would be insufficient to win a vote on council.

“Despite this disappointing outcome, my party colleagues and I have no regrets about highlighting the extreme and incendiary views expressed by Galloway at his last public speaking engagement in Leeds on August 2 when he called for the establishment of an Israel-free zone, without even Israeli academics or tourists being allowed to visit.”

The north Belfast councillor added: “Whilst some may consider his views to be merely ‘bonkers’, his demonisation of Israel and all Israeli people is clearly racist and risks incitement to hatred at this already tense time.

“We believe that he should not be provided with a platform at a Belfast City Council facility.”

Last night, veteran loyalist demonstrator Willie Frazer pledged that he will stage a protest at the event along with a number of others, expressing opposition to Mr Galloway’s views on Israel, and to his wider politics.