Googlegangers in East Belfast

After finishing off last night's Maze Conflict Transformation Centre report for BBC Newsline, I headed up to Ashfield Boys' School to chair this year's East Belfast Speaks Out event.

Because I had been working right up to 6.30pm I must admit I didn't have much time to research my introductions to the political panellists.

So I decided a quick Google search for biographical material would have to suffice. That's how I stumbled across one of my guests' suitably unlikely "googlegangers".

So it was that I introduced Sammy Douglas as a promising linebacker for the Arlington American football team, John O'Dowd as a Harley Street based consultant spinal surgeon, John Kyle as a 19th century Mississippi congressman, Chris Lyttle as a one-time Ultimate Fighting champion and retired US martial arts expert and Michael Copeland as a former soldier and serial killer.

Well it would have made for an interesting discussion wouldn't it?

Some years ago the Belfast Telegraph pointed out that I share my name with the star of a film called "Why I Hate Parties (But Pretend To Like Them)?", which they argued pretty much summed up my job.

My research on Googlegangers stops now - but if anyone stumbles across any other Stormont doubles feel free to let me know.

The debate itself was fairly lively, with plenty of questions from the floor and a walk-out from a supporter of the Occupy Belfast movement.

We discussed the Maze peace building centre and the use of supergrasses to testify against loyalists.

However, perhaps because of the presence of Education Minister John O'Dowd, the debate was dominated by issues like education and youth unemployment.

Housing complaints, the development of Belfast City Airport and views on devolving corporation tax also figured.

A discussion of the support for those suffering mental health problems led the DUP MLA Sammy Douglas to disclose that his own brother had recently taken his own life.

Members of the audience approached the platform after the event to commiserate with Mr Douglas.

As I had my work cut out chairing the event, I can't claim to have kept a comprehensive note of who said what.

However, I would recommend this summary of the proceedings from the ever industrious Alan Meban over on Slugger O'Toole.

One quote from the education minister did stick in my mind, when he argued that "the less you know about how laws and sausages are made, the happier you will be".

Although often attributed to Otto Von Bismarck, Wikiquote reckons the phrase was first crafted by the American poet John Godfrey Saxe.

Either way, John O'Dowd reckoned that as a former chef turned legislator he knows all too much about both sausages and laws.