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March 30, Belfast

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March 9, Nottingham

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January 27, Southampton

January 20, Liverpool

January 13, London

December 16, Leeds

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December 2, Cardiff

November 25, Birmingham

November 18, Durham

November 11, Maidstone

November 4, Glasgow

October 28, Southampton

October 21, London

October 14, Sydney

October 7, Manchester

September 30, Bournemouth

September 23, London

July 15, Belfast

July 8, London

July 1, Birmingham


March 30, Belfast

Your emails and a selection of panellists' comments are published on this page.

Click below to watch Question Time's special debate from Belfast in Real Video:

Last week the panel included:

  • David Trimble MP, leader of the Ulster Unionists
  • Andrew Mackay MP, Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary
  • Gerry Kelly MLA, Sinn Fein
  • Mark Durkan, SDLP finance minister from the suspended assembly
  • Suzanne Moore, Mail on Sunday columnist

The topics discussed were:

Life for Hindley, again

Audience Question: Does the panel think the Myra Hindley life sentence should mean life given that she's not considered a danger to society?

Suzanne Moore: It's an unpopular view but I think prison should be about rehabilitation not punishment. I think she should be released.

Gerry Kelly: To state life is life is an impossible situation. It's impossible that after 20, 30 or 40 years the judgment won't be reviewed. It's playing with words and her sentence will be reviewed.

David Trimble: Discussing this case is not helpful. There is a procedure for the Home Secretary to consider. We don't know what the home secretary knew. In Northern Ireland many people will be thinking of the uniquely evil things people have done here and will make the comparison.

Mark Durkan: We have to be concerned about tabloid justice. Myra Hindley should not be treated as some kind of show criminal. Home secretaries seem to go out of their way to influence the decision.

Andrew Mackay: Some crimes are so thoroughly evil that people who commit them deserve to be in prison for life.

You said:

The Myra Hindley debate is another example of how politicians hijack the sentencing system. They are more concerned about how a decision is perceived then justice being done. The law serves to protect only those with an opportunity to influence it.
Lee Hegarty, Birmingham

Myra Hindley's victim's are dead and will never be given a second chance to enjoy the gift of life, so why should I have to pay taxes so that monsters like Hindley or Rose West can get a second chance when surely they would only commit the same crimes again! Of course with someone like Gerry Kelly on the panel it makes it harder to fight this argument!
Richard, Haverfordwest

The likes of Sidney Cook are released after a relatively short period of time in prison. Reggie Kray who was never involved in the murder of children has to spend the rest of his life in prison. If Myra is ever released then he should be too. Anyone who is convicted of the sexual abuse or of murdering children should NEVER be released.
Corrina Crowley, Preston

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Time for Mr Trimble to go?

Audience Question: When will David Trimble face up to the fact that he has failed the unionist community and, as the agreement was sold on cross-community support and he no longer has the support of the majority of the unionist community, it's time for him to go?

David Trimble: The questioner should reflect on the fact that the agreement was endorsed by 71.12% of the people of Northern Ireland and also endorsed by the majority of unionists. The anti-agreement unionists. The vote for Martin Smyth was identical to the vote that took place in the unionist council last November.

Gerry Kelly: David Trimble is the leader of Ulster Unionism. That is a fact. That's up to the unionists who elected him. If we are to move out of this we have to work with whoever there is. I have great difficulty with some unionists, especially Ian Paisley. The institutions were the building blocks of the agreement.

Mark Durkan: After people endorsed the agreement in overwhelming numbers opinion polls showed high support for the institutions and the rest of the agreement. People have turned real objectives into preconditions. We believe we can continue to negotiate with the leaderships of all the other parties. Too much time has been spent on parties addressing their own constituencies.

Andrew Mackay: David Trimble showed great political courage in entering into the executive. If I was a unionist in Northern Ireland I would be really proud of him. He and the people of Northern Ireland have been let down by the lack of decommissioning.

Suzanne Moore: I hope he doesn't go because the alternative is the anti-agreement unionists who have no alternative but to live in the past. This is a massive political failure. If people want peace this is what we must have.

David Trimble: The republican movement is to blame for the suspension of the institutions. May 22 is still the date by which the paramilitaries should have disarmed. The only people who can provide the certainty that it will work is republicans. They have to face up to their responsibilities under the agreement.

Gerry Kelly: The institutions were pulled down by Peter Mandelson on the basis that David Trimble threatened to resign. Every other party and the Irish government want them kept up. If you want to deal with decommissioning then deal with all armed groups including the loyalists. Out in the unionist community there are 150,000 weapons. We have a democratic right because of the mandate to represent our constituency. That has been taken away from us.

Mark Durkan: We are committed to achieving decommissioning in a manner determined by General de Chastelain. Unionists lectured us for years on respecting the wishes of the greater number of the people. The agreement is the will of the greater number of the people.

Andrew Mackay: All the democratic political parties have fulfilled there obligations. The people who haven't are the paramilitaries. For them it has been all take and no give.

You said:

Attending last night's recording of Question Time in Belfast totally confirmed my long-held suspicion that politics in Northern Ireland is controlled by those who shout loudest. The programme was hijacked by the "no" faction of the Ulster Unionist party. With "friends" like these Northern Ireland needs no enemies.
Wendy Cousins, Belfast

I agree with some of the comments about the apparent futility of the Northern Ireland situation. But surely the fact that politicians, including a former IRA member, were prepared to sit round a table and debate the issues with the public is a great sign for the future. Yes, opinions are divided and polarised, and it may seem like the same old issues are argued about again and again. But it's a start and I think people should stop being so negative.
Emma Hutton, Edinburgh

I think that there are perhaps only a few weeks left to get this peace process back on track. We are one atrocity away from total chaos. The unionist politicians have created an atmosphere of disillusionment, people are fed up with their games. The unionists don't want violence, but they don't seem to want politics, either, only an IRA surrender, which isn't going to happen.
Jim Loughman, South Amboy, NJ-USA

Everybody seems to be saying "When are the IRA going to disarm and when are Sinn Fein going to get them to do this?" I say when are all paramilitaries going to disarm? I am not an IRA nor a Sinn Fein supporter. I am an ex-British soldier who has served in NI knows what the IRA and other paramilitaries have done. I have lost friends during the troubles - soldiers and Irish civilians.
Eddie, Sunderland

The underlying fact of the matter is the Republicans will never give in until the British pull out. The terrorists are not clever enough to realise that if they handed over their weapons this would eventually lead to a united Ireland. After all when was the last time we refused to give up part of the Empire?
David Sedgwick

Surely the one thing that has kept the IRA from commiting terrorist offences is that Sinn Fein is involved in the political process. The IRA are only likely to resume violence when the political process is no longer a viable option. The longer the process continues, the public being used to 'normal' political debate, and will not readily support a resumption of violence after experiencing the obvious benefits of engaging in a stable democratic government. The IRA of course depend on public support for 'legitimacy' and recruitment.
Paul, London

Since decommissioning has become a stumbling block could we get around it by allowing all citizens to bear arms?
Name withheld

The prejudice individuals have towards other peoples' beliefs is sickening. Undoubtedly the shining light is David Trimble, a man whose vision and insight over the years has given unionism an acceptable face and voice. He is a true statesman and those who seek to destroy him are bigots intent on seeing the peace process totally collapse. I left Northern Ireland four years ago this month because of this narrow-mindedness. I have no intention of returning.
Marcus McCollum, Kennington, London

Removing David Trimble from the party leadership will instantly invoke the polishing of IRA weapons. Very few loyalists would have face to face talks with republican politicians the way David Trimble does. Anyone who wants to rock the boat knows all they have to do is remove Trimble.
Hayley Clarke, Exeter

As an Irish individual I would like to urge all the parties involved in the peace negotiations to continue to strive towards a lasting peace. We owe it to the people who voted in favour of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 and we owe it to future generations. It was inevitable that the people of Ireland would have to face this period of readjustment following 30 years of violence but those years are over.
Michael Gibbons, Isleworth, Middlesex

I feel as an Irishman very sorry for the continued narrowmindness of the audience and some of the panel. Part of the N. Irish problem is the attitude and ignorange of sucessive British politicians including the member for the opposition who clearly has little understanding of the Irish problem.
Dr Hugh O'Neill, UK/Eire

I believe the IRA will not give up their guns because they would be a minority group without them. It is time for the nationalist community to stand up for peace and refuse to acknowledge the desire of a minority of people in Northern Ireland.
Gordon Casey

Sinn Fein's policies have changed little over the last 30 years and their politicians have not suddenly become ultra persuasive. Rather they are in a commanding position at present because the United Kingdom cannot afford another IRA bomb in London.
Anne Smith, Belfast

I am an ex-member of the British Army who has served in Belfast. Would it not have been better to have agreed to the IRA statement that they were an army, and then declared war on them? Keep the RUC and the British Army in Northern Ireland because it keeps the peace.
Christopher Palfrey, Honiton, Devon

I think the peace process might be restarted if one paramilitary organisation could hand in just one handgun. A group on the other side might then have to 'retaliate' by handing in just one gun too.
Tristan, London

Whilst not wishing to condone or support terrorist crimes, why do we condemn the Russians for what they did in Chechnya, we support the Kosovans against Milosovic, and the rebels in East Timor etc. All these peoples were fighting against the oppression of their respective governments - yet the IRA, supposedly fighting the British government against oppression, are described as murderers. Is it biased journalism?
R.Cummings, Isle of Man

The IRA are clearly not going to make any public declaration that the war is over, let alone that they will decommission any arms before 22 May. What happens next?
Ken Holt, Mossley Hill, Liverpool, UK

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Symbols versus substance

Audience Question: Do symbols or names in any way make a difference to good justice or good policing?

Mark Durkan: Symbols make a difference to people when they are seen as alien. Everyone is agreed that their presence makes a difference. Institutions that are meant to serve the public in this divided community they shouldn't operation the identity of any one community.

Suzanne Moore: If people want to trust their police force it's how they operate and what they do. The name has to change.

David Trimble: The point is the consent principle: that everyone who supported the agreement recognised that Northern Ireland is a legitimate part of the UK. Therefore we have to accept the expression of that Britishness. Do not assume the government has accepted any part of the Patten report.

Gerry Kelly: Is it insulting to nationalists and republicans. I'm Irish and proud of it. Symbols make a difference because they represent a whole culture. We need a justice system to work off.

Andrew Mackay: It's difficult to see how the government has awarded the St. George Cross to the RUC and yet is going to disband it. I will be leading Conservatives to vote against the name change. I would have hoped there could have been a compromise. Some of the Patten proposals can't be implemented because of security issues.

You said:

What about calling the RUC the Northern Ireland constabulary? I can't see anyone finding that offensive.
Adam Penny, Downham Market, UK

As far as I know no other police force in the UK has the word Royal in the title. So why does the Northern Irish police force have to keep it? My second point is if weapons have not been handed in by May this year are prisoners let out early going to be put back in jail?
Dan Neale, Canterbury

Once again, the intransigence & paranoia that is inbuilt into the psyche of Unionists was on display. They are, as some in the audience demonstrated, more British than the British. Even Trimble appeared moderate. Symbolism is as much a part of the British presence as is the Orange Order. No guns will ever be decommisioned as long as the Unionists continue to believe that the six counties are a legal entity (the UN do not recognise it as such).
Richard Gebbie, Blyth, Northumberland

To David Trimble: by threatening not to restart the Assembly unless the RUC retains its name, you have found a very intelligent and despicable way of preventing the peace process from restarting. When Sin Feinn/IRA realises this, bombs will once again rock my city and your country. What will you have gained?
Pascal Jacquemain, London

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Softer on drugs?

Audience Question: Should the drug laws be relaxed as suggested by the Police Foundation?

Suzanne Moore: Yes they should. The mood is changing. I sometimes think politicians have such a distorted view of reality they must be on some kind of drug anyway. This is a government of people in their 40s and 50s. Cannabis has been around a long time, they must have taken it.

Andrew Mackay: This was a distinguished group who put forward some interesting ideas which the government rubbished before the report was even published. There should be a proper debate. Before legalising cannabis I would have to be satisfied that it didn't give a green light to drug taking.

Mark Durkan: I don't think the government were wrong to be cautious. I don't think their reaction prevents a debate. There are issues that need to be looked at including alcohol and tobacco.

Gerry Kelly: Nobody can deny the massive difference to heroin at one end and cannabis at the other. You have to have a stratified response. They would make a mistake to declassify ecstasy because it has led to a number of deaths.

David Trimble: I understand the government's position. The republican movement takes money out of the drugs trade.

You said:

Suzanne Moore is right, again another UK government fails to wake up to the fact that prohibition of drugs does not work and we need a new direction on this issue. If the police and a review body are telling the government this, why do they still fail to listen? To criminalise somebody for smoking marijuana is ludicrous. The estimates say 3-5 million people smoke regularly. I guess it is higher and no backward law maintained by a backward government will prevent this number from rising.
Dave Goodman, Glasgow

It simply makes sense to legalise all drugs. Police, justice and social costs will disappear. Drug pushers/dealers will be redundant. Quality control will ensure a reduced no. of deaths and injuries. Whether drugs are legal or not there will always be people who will get addicted. But at least society will be safer than it is.
Nigel Summana, Rainham, Essex

The drug debate shows the inability of Northern Irish politicians to discuss any subject without secterianism. How can the people of Northern Ireland expect rational debate about any other subject?
Andrew Mustoe, Uckfield, UK

The simple fact is that drugs are wrong. Any climbdown on this issue is morally flawed and will send the wrong message to everyone!
Peter Mash, Cambridge

When will the government wake up to the fact that most people who smoke cannabis never go on to harder drugs? The majority of users sit at home on the weekend with friends and cause no problems to anyone else.
Dan Neale, Canterbury

I do not see why I am classed as a criminal for using drugs like Canabis and Ecstacy. People always say that ecstacy is very dangerous and one pill can kill. However many deaths in this country cannot be linked to MDMA itself but to other drugs contained in illegal pills. This is because they are sold on the blackmarket and cannot be controlled. The simple answer is to legalise all drugs.
Keith, Birmingham

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General comments on the programme:

Too often when Question Time comes from Belfast it becomes a single-issue programme, and is less enjoyable for it. As a member of the audience I was pleased with David Dimbleby's appeal for questions on a broad range of subjects. However, I would suggest a more balanced panel. The panel for this programme were pro-agreement. Not everyone who feels that the Agreement is flawed is bigoted, intransigent, hard-line, anti-peace process or unable to offer an alternative to it.
Peter Gray, Belfast

Having just returned from the recording of BBC Question Time in Belfast, I can only express my disappointment at the entire programme from both a participant's and a viewer's point of view. The make-up of the audience was more than 50% anti-agreement (when the voting records are 71.2% pro-agreement). Many people who attended left the building expressing disappointment that once again real politics had been hijacked by the largely unrepresentative 'NO' camp of the Northern Ireland political scene. Those who shouted loudest i.e. the 'No' brigade were given substantial air time, whilst those who patiently and politely raised their hands to speak were largely ignored.
Brenda Bodenham, Coleraine, N. Ireland

I have just heard the most unruly Question Time ever. The whole problem of Northern Ireland was put on display. Nobody will listen to the other side's argument. Both sides just want to shout the other down, have their say but will not listen to their opponents. Add to that a culture of putting blame on the other side for all things, you have the unanswerable question of Ireland. Perhaps we on this side of the Irish Sea should have a referendum as to whether WE want the north of Ireland as part of our country.
Charles Beckham, UK

I have been an avid viewer of Question Time for some years but was very disappointed in tonight's show. You may just as well have given the whole programme over to Gerry Kelly to air his political propoganda. What coverage for the IRA you have provided tonight.
Mrs V Parker, Hillingdon, Middx

The glib and ill thought out comments of Suzanne Moore demonstrated her total lack of understanding of the problems in the province where minor points of disagreement have a much deeper and serious conotation. This lack of understanding is representative of the majority of the mainland population and reflects the futility of anyone offering solutions who has not experienced life there at first hand.
Sean Meaker, Pembroke

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