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EDITIONS
Thursday, 29 November, 2001, 14:13 GMT
November 29, Belfast
You can join Question Time's internet debate by emailing your views on the topics discussed in the latest programme to: questiontime@bbc.co.uk

You can watch the programme online in Real Video by clicking on Latest edition.


The topics discussed this week were:

Audience question: Does the panel feel that increasing taxes is the price the public should have to pay for additional funding for the NHS? You said:

The health service is funded enough. The service is currently mis-managed, with money wasted on non-productive positions (far too many office staff) and an overpaid management. I would not like to pay any more taxes. More money chucked at this problem would only degrade the situation further...probably adding another tier to the already over-indulged admin departments and not where it counts ie people dealing first hand with patients.
Charles. L Patterson, Orphir, Orkney

If we want more money to spend on the NHS, the answer is simple. Stop wasting money on the EU. Let's get out and the money saved can be spent as it ought to be, on providing services for British people.
Keith Wiseman, Bury

I agree with Charles Moore in his comments on whether additional funding will help the NHS. The health care in this country is sub-standard and no doubt something has to be done about it. But is further cash funding the primary answer? Should an independent body not review the other deficiencies such as the institutional nature of the NHS? Is taxpayers' money really being allocated appropriately?
Nelson, London

I agree with Germaine Greer about having incentives to promote healthy living. However, I know from my own experience that the grinding nature of poverty slowly removes the joy of life and breaks the will to make the effort, irrespective of knowledge and irrespective of long-term outcomes. Any such initiatives will therefore REQUIRE that all people are paid sufficiently to make healthy eating and living within their means.
Rhys Jaggar, Manchester

I think what Charles Moore said was typical right-wing negative rubbish. Like old Tory policy: 'Don't increase taxes, do nothing and then see why 18 years of Tory government have brought the health service from the most admired in the world, before Tory rule, to its knees.'
Dale, Yate

No to increase in tax. Let certain experiments take place, allow those who wish to go, go. The longer we live the more resources are needed. We have got rid of natural selection.
Steve Smith, Edinburgh

The smokers and drinkers of this country pay huge taxes for the privilege to do so - the very same taxes that are currently used to fund the NHS through the treasury. So why even consider penalising those that indirectly fund the NHS to a quite considerable level already?
Ken Topping, Glenrothes

Germaine Greer's comments are misguided. I work in the NHS and all my current patients are fully informed on all treatment options before any decision on treatment is made, even in emergency settings...I am not on my own, there are no 'all-powerful doctors' in the NHS. As for the no claims bonus idea, this would heavily penalise the elderly and children. The best way to organise the NHS is better organisation and more money for patient care.
Upal Hossain, London

Why can't the NHS use bonds placed on the stock market to raise some money?
Zebulun Wren, Paddock Wood

Would I pay extra tax for the NHS? NO! On a low income a 1% increase in tax means a loss of 70 a month. To me that means the difference between having a life and just scraping in the bills. Tax people who can afford it.
Stephen, Milton Keynes

I can not believe how many people waste the time of professionals in the health service! I am 35-yrs-old and when I am ill the first port of call that I go to is my local chemist. If they recommend that I see the doctor then I will of course attend the clinic! I am aghast that so many people are intent on pampering themselves with a visit to the GP when they could get free and well educated advice in next to no time from the very helpful chemist.
John E Gray, Gravesend Kent

As a nurse who has just finished a late shift in London I trained in Belfast and have 15 years experience as a nurse. Now I work as a G grade and have been for six years. Can you explain why I cannot get a job in NI nor an interview above a D grade, the reason being that I do not have a degree. Does experience not count in NI? I believe that my home area is as short of nurses as anywhere else.
M Fenton, London

As a nation I truly believe we are very lucky to have the NHS. I am (only!) 30 years old, but I realise that in comparison to the rest of the world, what we have in this country is quite privileged. Without appearing self-righteous, I would like complaints about waiting times in GP surgeries to become so much more realistic. Complaints about how long an ambulance might take obviously have nothing to do with people abusing the system. Excuse my irony. Believe it or not, I do not work for the National Health Service. I am just very grateful that it even exists, and hope that it continues with much better pay for all those employed in its services.
Ms Scarff, Northampton

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Audience question: Does the panel think Amnesty International is right to call for an inquiry into the killings in Mazar-e-Sharif? You said:

A comment was made that the question on Afghanistan was devalued by relating to Northern Ireland. Are the people in Northern Ireland who were tortured and killed undeserving of inquiries? Events in Afghanistan do appear to be truly horrific, but in Northern Ireland the perpetrators of equally vicious crimes are now in government and holding the country to ransom. This should not be tolerated.
Louise Hill, Co Antrim

Martin McGuinness is a man trying to shed his past in order to give himself a new identity. I think he will pay his debt not to the people but the higher authority of which we are all answerable to.
Ashley, Yeovil

I think it was scandalous how David Dimbleby let that guy in the audience totally digress from the question in hand, regarding the atrocity in Afghanistan, turning it into genocide in Northern Ireland by Martin McGuinness. If there is any proof of terrorism having been carried out by him he would have been convicted. Himself and David Trimble are doing their very best to make things work in a very difficult province, and I wish them luck.
E Lynch, Kent

What a mess Dimbleby made by actively devaluing the question on Afghanistan. He attempted to turn the question in support of the bigoted rabble rousers in the audience. Happily he failed due to the balanced answers given by M McGuinness and Brid Rodgers.
John Haresign, Wigan

Since when has any politician ever been anything other than "as slippery as an eel!" Your naivety is astounding.
John E Gray, Gravesend, Kent

If Martin McGuinness is so adamant the events described in the book about him are untrue there is a simple remedy. He can sue in a court of law where the allegations can be refuted or proved as applicable. Somehow I do not think that will ever happen.
Stuart Sutherland, Ellesmere Port

The panel appeared incensed at the treatment of the Taleban prisoners. However this is the organisation that orchestrated the events of 11 September. For these terrorists to be allowed to go free will allow them to go forth and do it again. There is a time when the finer points of civilisation have to be subservient to common sense. It is called the art of survival.
Barrie, Tavistock, Devon

I think it is an absolute disgrace the way you treated Martin McGuinness this evening. You were completely biased and let the other two men in the panel completely initiate bias towards him. So what if somebody wrote a book to make money? Anyone with a brain can see Martin McGuinness did whatever he did for his beliefs and for his country - he stood by his people.
Norah Coyne, London

Martin McGuinness seems to know an awful lot about his biography even though he claims not to have read it. He can easily recall its contents when he needs to back up his own arguments, but feigns ignorance when confronted by difficult and damning indictments. He is clearly as slippery as an eel, and not to be trusted. How worrying that he holds such a position of responsibility in the government of Northern Ireland.
Stephen Larkin, Surrey

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Audience question: Should children taking a certain route to their school be a major issue in a civilised society? You said:

For some know-it-all from Belfast to pass comment on Germaine Greer's assessment of the situation in the city is rich - at least she is being objective. It is about time people from the province, on both sides of the political divide, realise that people from outside the six counties can have an opinion whether they like their views or not. That sort of attitude merely cements the problems rather than solves them.
Jonathan Anderson, Sussex, formerly Belfast

I believe that the parents of the school children were just as much to blame, if not more so. They subjected their children to that, it was their choice, and that is terrible! What kind of parents do that to their children?
Giles, Shropshire

I would like to comment that Germaine Greer, for the first time on national television, indicated that there was two sides to the Holy Cross dispute. For me, she once again highlighted the failure of our fourth estate to perform objectively where there is an emotional dimension involved. Ms Greer is still intellectually head and shoulders above most of her contemporaries and I always look forward to her arguments on any subject she cares to address.
Tony Stanney, Lisburn

In reply to Anne, Belfast, I would just like to say that the problems she highlighted with regards to unintegrated schools are specific to her area and not commonplace elsewhere. I went to a Catholic primary and secondary school and did not come across the problems she highlighted. I mixed after school with both Protestants and Catholics and did not come across any problems.
Brendan Murphy, Kelty, Fife

It is intolerable that in the 21st century Britain still has a form of apartheid operating in the school system. The fact that the criteria for separation is religion rather than colour is no less obscene.
Dave Nicol, Dublin

Surely the true sign of a civilised society is not integrated education but choice? Having been educated in English Catholic schools, we chose to withdraw our daughter from a Scottish "civilised" Catholic primary in favour of a non-denominational primary on educational grounds. Her education has improved dramatically and her religion has not suffered in the slightest. Choice IS civilisation!!
Mandy Bradley, Glasgow

David Trimble gives me hope for the future, and I'm an RC. I've no time for faith schools funded by the government but have to accept people's rights to run their own.
Cate Enright, Lyme Regis

I would just like to thank Germaine Greer for her impassioned and stirring contribution to the debate tonight about the children being parade past protestant thugs on their way to school. We love you Germaine!
Steve O'Neill, London

I think it is ridiculous that G Greer thinks she can give an opinion. She knows nothing about North, South, East or West of Belfast - let her live in these areas and get to know them. Also to bombard Martin McGuinness on his early year activities is scandalous and I am glad he defended himself against an English politician who knows nothing about northern Ireland except what he reads in a book.
M Slevin, Belfast

I thought the treatment of the children and parents on their way to school was very sad. We live in a free society and both the children and parents should be able to use this route to get to school if they so wish. This situation must not be allowed to happen again, and I am very glad that this dispute seems to be being resolved.
Steve Fuller, (City) Brighton & Hove

I do blame the school system in Ulster for a lot of the problems. I went to a Catholic school and I was taught that mixed marriages were wrong. Coming from one I felt very hurt by this and realise if there are others teaching this then teachers in these schools would have to take some of the blame. Also the children go to the school and home to their ghettos and meet no one of the opposite religion.
Anne, Belfast

I am a law student in Hull. I live in a student house with two Catholics, two Anglicans, a Hindu and a Muslim. I was raised a Jehovah's Witness, though am now lapsed. I do not care what religion my flatmates are. We do not dictate to each other who can use which door in the house, or walk down which corridor... To fight over this is a disgrace in a modern society - but to allow it to terrorise small children is unforgivable.
Damian Warburton, Hull

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Audience question: Would you shop a friend if you got 500 and know your friend has been drink driving? You said:

500 to be a drink/drive informant? No! I think I could justify reporting someone who was a potential danger to himself and others but not in return for 500.
Alan Marshall, Southampton

500 for grassing your mates! How pathetic, inane and insulting can you get? A blatantly obvious attention-seeking decision by a lazy and inept police force! Let's target an easy target and that way we can avoid doing anything too taxing. Although it is not a wise decision to drive whilst drunk it is not the most evil thing that one can do and the emphasis based upon it is purely because it is so easy to get a result from doing these exercises.
John E Gray, Gravesend, Kent

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Audience question: Could the panel agree that Star Wars is the greatest movie ever made? If not, what would they choose? You said:

Re the 100 best movies. Disgrace that my No 1,"Cinema Paradiso" was not on the list.
David Bendelow, Berwick-Upon-Tweed

My three top films, in no particular order!
Elvira Madigan
The Color Purple
The Mission
Gerry Boyle, London

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General comments on the programme:

Excellent programme, very well controlled by David Dimbleby. If Northern Ireland is to move forward it needs more programmes like this. The sight of David Trimble and Martin McGuinness, both smiling and relaxed was a treasure.
David Sellers, Manchester

I served as a British soldier in Ulster but I wouldn't have made the remarks to Martin McGuinness that Charles Moore did. Whatever Mr McGuinness did or didn't do must be forgotten now if the the peace process is to move on. I agreed with Germaine Greer's comments. Also I must say David Trimble has been a man of honour and dignity throughout a very difficult period for him trying to establish a lasting political solution to his country's problems.
Brad, Bristol

Yet again the politicians and people of Northern Ireland have let themselves down in front of the television cameras! Instead of informed discussion about the issues that affect us all we ended up with a hard-line DUP element in the audience continually barracking the panellists and the panellists acting like schoolchildren arguing in the schoolyard. It is time for people here to put their petty hatreds behind them and act like responsible human beings!
Adrian Coyle, Belfast

I think the constant badgering of Martin McGuinness was a disgrace. He is a remarkable man and has done tremendous work for the peace process. This new book attacking his character is wrong and I would not waste my money or time on this pile of rubbish. People should stop accusing Mr McGuinness when they have no proof and they should also remember that Britain was occupying our country - it was a war and people die in wars.
Natalie Sheridan, Dublin

For a place with such a long and painful history of sectarian violence, the people of NI have done admirably well in putting the past behind them. It is deeply moving to see David Trimble and Martin McGuinness sit round a table and discuss current issues sensibly. I am surprised that the last programme was criticised by some viewers from England as rowdy and uncontrolled.
Bernard Man, Hong Kong, China

Thanks for all your comments on the programme. We always read them and they are a great help.
David Dimbleby

This was one of the most instructive programmes in the series and it was due, principally, to the presentational qualities of the three professional politicians on the panel, but this only served to accentuate the shortcomings of the two non-political members of the panel. I hate to personalise my comments but I was frustrated by the folksy irrelevant musings of Germaine Greer on such serious subjects under discussion.
Fred Ainsley, Bury St Edmunds

Last night's episode was a tragic embarrassment for Northern Ireland and its reputation elsewhere. I left Belfast at the age of 18, I still feel deeply loyal to my homeland, but truly despair at the petty small-mindedness of its leaders. The vacillation and inability of Trimble, and most particularly McGuinness, to commit themselves to any form of reasoned perspective beyond their own tribal war cries was wretched. Brid Rodgers - what a contrast.
Colin Dudgeon, London

I love Question Time but was very disappointed by David Dimbleby's failure to control the proceeding this evening. He allowed a question from the floor to hijack the sensible discussion taking place on the Afghanistan matter by allowing the matter of N Ireland to develop. Be consistent and don't permit supplementary questions to deflect you from the main question.
J> Forrest, Cheadle, Cheshire

Question Time should be longer and earlier! If one and a half hours can be devoted to a football match as it regularly is then QT deserves as long. One can understand when people are living with problems such as there are in NI world issues seem less important.
Alan Marshall, Southampton

Phew a lively one tonight! Northern Ireland is still a volatile province. If God really exists (and I doubt it) how can so-called believers justify their feelings and actions of hatred towards each other? Interestingly since David Dimbleby implied he read the comments on the programme these seem to have increased considerably!
Mary Kallagher, King's Lynn

A depressing aspect of tonight's programme was the clear inability of a significant section of the studio audience to desist from sectarian point scoring.
Brendan Gallagher, Mullingar, Rep Ireland

I disagree with the complaints made on this board regarding the subject matter. Yes, they turned the discussion to local matters however what else is the programme for but to discuss politics and the audience are naturally going to want to talk about their own problems. As for Mr Driver of Bradford's comments on this board, we in Northern Ireland could say exactly the same of Question Time when it is in England. The whole point of the programme is to discuss politics from the perspective of people in different places of the United Kingdom.
Pete Strong, Armagh

Last night's programme from Belfast was a disgrace. Firstly, it was the most chaotic uncontrolled edition yet, and it has been getting worse for some time now. Secondly, I find it quite remarkable the way McGuinness was literally protected by Dimbleby from very valid questioning about his involvement in terrorism.
I M Hallett, Guildford

Although, understandably, tempers were frayed at times on last night's broadcast, for me the fact that we are able to hold such a discussion at all, with participants holding such profoundly divergent views, is a success in itself. It was not that long ago that Sinn Fein voices were banned from being broadcast by the BBC. I thought David D did an excellent job of trying to keep the discussion evenly balanced.
John Cheesman, Godalming

On Nov 1 I watched the outrageous assault on Henry McLeish, and last night I watched a similar personal assault on Martin McGuinness. In both cases I thought that the forum of Question Time was not the correct place for such personal attacks. Charles Moore was outrageous in his blatant defamation of Mr McGuinness.
Bill Andrews, Sheffield

As ever, Germaine Greer spoke with honesty and, I believe, a total understanding of each of the subjects presented tonight. She is one of the few "media folk" who consistently speaks and writes from the heart in a thoroughly objective way. I don't always agree with her, but to me she is the personification of "common sense" and always worth listening to.
Paul Swets, Whaley Bridge

While it was nice to see people from many sides in NI sitting around a table discussing things in a fairly amicable manner, the bloke at the end talking about the lack of law and order on the streets and thugs running communities showed us how far there really is to go!
Gavin, Cardiff

I watched tonight in amazement. Well done to David for keeping the crowd under control. I was horrified by Charles Moore, as usual a complete embarrassment. I think that it is also time Northern Ireland learned to discuss world news, yes what is happening there is awful but the question was about Afghanistan!
Sarah Rix, London

As an undergraduate student in Northern Ireland and from Belfast, I am in complete agreement with Margaret Clark. The audience tonight demonstrated once again a blatant lack of awareness of anything outside of this province. One would hope that we could have informed debates about the topics of the day without resorting to sectarian heckling and small-mindedness. It is a shame to say that I and many other young persons look forward to the day when we can leave this province and its bigotry and join the real world!
Student, Belfast

Please, never broadcast from Northern Ireland again. The audience are too obsessed with local issues. Their narrow bigoted opinions are of no interest to an English audience. What a shower!
Gerald Driver, Bradford

Oooh, that was a good one!
Kevin Davy, Bassingbourn, Cambridgeshire

Brid Rodgers gained my total respect - more power to her arm. The Irish/Belfast men tended to let themselves down in comparison with Brid who made so much sense. Even Charles Moore (who appeared to rather like Martin McGuinness) was not a patch on her. Germaine, as ever, talked much sense. But thank you David for controlling the AWFUL sectarianism that is still happening.
Susan Scott, Edinburgh

David Dimbleby did a wonderful job tonight chairing the programme in Belfast. Not easy to look so professional in such challenging circumstances. Well done and thank you as always for an excellent debate.
Liz, Ealing, London

I want to say sorry to those of you who didn't turn off thinking 'It's the Paddies at it again' that the Northern Irish are great at bringing the worries of the world down to our level, normally within a half mile radius of our own homes. That probably is what the past 30 years has been all about. Even so a lot of sense was said by a member of the audience near the end of the programme.
Cyril T, Belfast

Brilliant! One of the best Question Times I've seen. But why does the BBC keep wheeling out Germaine Greer to pontificate on issues she knows nothing about? Anyway, GG notwithstanding, that was an excellent episode - I was a bit disappointed that it didn't come to blows, but I suppose you can't have everything!
Joe Taylor, Falmouth, Cornwall

I have just watched Martin McGuinness under attack on Question Time. I am amazed he remained as cheerful and courageous under such abuse and insulting behaviour as he did - Charles Moore hopefully has made his last appearance on Question Time.
M McGonigal, Glasgow

For the last 13 years living in Holland I have never missed any of your programmes but tonight's was a disappointment, especially with regards the journalist from the Telegraph. He was very biased against Martin McGuinness. What a pity - there is enough hatred on the streets of Belfast. But I will watch next week as usual.
Maria Hannigan, Amersfoort, Holland

It is so refreshing to hear the comments of someone unguarded ie Germaine who can describe passionately the tensions of a divided society.
Geoffrey O'Connell, Virginia Water

Put past aside Martin McGuinness has for the first time impressed me that he wants to work for peace (albeit a little biased towards his views). For David Dimbleby, a medal winning job of control of panel and audience. Roll on next week.
Paul Buckle

How dare you have Martin McGuinness on Question Time pontificating about a society he wanted to destroy. I have turned off in disgust. This is utterly outrageous....
Tom Phillips, Oxford

There we were, having a sensible discussion on the Afghanistan war when the programme was hijacked by the usual bunch of bullies on both sides. The behaviour on both sides in the saga of the Holy Cross school was despicable and beneath contempt.
Tim Huth, Portsmouth

I wish to thank the makers of the programme for a partly amusing, but most importantly touching show. It really did bring down to earth the reality of the problems in Northern Ireland and the problems we face in the future. Many thanks and keep up the good work.
Sam Boxall, Cranleigh

I guessed right. When I heard that the programme was coming from Belfast I knew that they would be unable to discuss world issues, that they cannot see past their own problems to know or care what is going on in the rest of the world. When oh when will they bury the past and try and learn about peace?
Margaret Clark, Teignmouth

Your programme is educational and enjoyable and I like the way you put people from opposite sides next to each other at the table. All people should watch Question Time!
Ross, Wolverhampton

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