DUP attempt to block 'incendiary' Galloway gig at Ulster Hall fails
The DUP has expressed disappointment that Belfast City Council cannot legally block a George Galloway event at one of its venues.
The Respect MP is set to hold an event at the Ulster Hall next Saturday.
However, the DUP team on Belfast City Council called for it to be cancelled.
The DUP and UUP objected to the event following comments which Mr Galloway made urging people in Bradford to reject all Israeli goods, services, academics and tourists.
West Yorkshire Police are investigating the remarks, however Mr Galloway has said he has not been contacted by the constabulary.
Belfast City Council sought legal advice on whether or not it could cancel the event.
A spokeswoman for the council yesterday confirmed that the event will go ahead as planned on Saturday, August 23.
She said the council could not cancel the contract it had with Mr Galloway without the risk of a legal challenge.
"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," she said. "The event will, therefore, proceed as planned."
Despite the DUP bid to stop Mr Galloway from speaking at the Ulster Hall – the party did not seek an outright ban on him speaking, just a ban on him using a council-owned facility – councillor Brian Kingston said they don't regret it.
"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," he said.
Mr Kingston said his attempt did not have the backing of the council with only unionists backing it. "Whilst we have received support from some other political parties, it is clear that numbers would be insufficient to win a vote," he said. "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 when he called for the establishment of an Israel-free zone, without even Israeli academics or tourists being allowed to visit."
Above: Former DUP leader Ian Paisley wearing the traditional red beret of paramilitary group the Ulster Resistance in Ulster Hall
The Ulster Hall in Belfast city centre is no stranger to politics and controversy, and has a special place in unionist history.
The 155-year-old building played host to anti Home Rule rallies at the start of the 20th century.
In 1986, the paramilitary group Ulster Resistance was announced by the DUP at the hall in opposition to the Anglo-Irish Agreement. The rally was chaired by the Democratic Unionist Party member Sammy Wilson and addressed by party colleagues Ian Paisley, Peter Robinson and Ivan Foster.
In the 1990s, it became the scene of a series of meetings of the Ulster Unionist Council over the Good Friday Agreement. It also hosted a major Sinn Fein rally in 2002.