MP George Galloway has said that dissident republican Marian Price should be freed.
The politician was speaking last night at the Belfast Feile.
He told the West Belfast Talks Back session: “The courts freed Marian Price so she should be freed”, adding he did not support her “political line” and if she reoffended she should be charged and brought before the courts.
Mr Galloway then revealed he had just spoken to the 58-year-old prisoner, convicted of bombing the Old Bailey, while talking to her husband Jerry McGlinchey.
“I have just spoken to her on the phone for the first time and she's not a well woman,” he said. “For all the damning with faint praise, and Ruth Dudley Edwards' reference to her ‘remarkable recovery’ (after Price's 1973 hunger strike), the courts decreed she should be released and it's time to free Marian Price.”
Alongside Mr Galloway on the panel was a rainbow coalition of opinion-makers and politicians: DUP MP Gregory Campbell, author Ruth Dudley Edwards and Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly.
The first half of the debate discussed, without resolving, Syria and the Middle East question.
Opinion divided pretty much along sectarian lines, with Galloway and Kelly regarding Western inaction on Syria as hypocrisy and part of a ploy to destabilise Iran.
Gregory Campbell and Ruth Dudley Edwards, in different ways, pointed out the complexity of the situation and the fact that the situation after any Western intervention might not look better than before.
After broadening talk out to Israel and Palestine, Ms Edwards caused some hissing in the audience by suggesting the Feile might introduce an Israeli representative to “hear the other side”.
It then moved on to gay issues which led to some agonising from Mr Campbell, although his statement of concern that marriage between a man and a woman could be undermined by acceptance of the “lifestyle” of the lesbian and gay community received surprising support from George Galloway.
The Respect MP for West Bradford caused amusement by saying you couldn't promote homosexuality — “you either are or you aren't” — and adding that attendance at any number of Pride marches would not change his orientation.
The debate turned to recent trouble over July 12, with a discussion over whether the Orange Order should be banned following a band's misbehaviour and the singing of ‘The Famine Song’ outside a Catholic church.
Discussion was fierce, and intensified later between Messrs Campbell and Kelly over whether the former would ever shake hands with the latter.
You can only hope that these exchanges are in some way cathartic.