Belfast Feile 'can't afford to axe comic Frankie Boyle's gig'
Organisors apologise, but controversial comedian is still coming to town
Feile an Phobail has apologised to families angered by the booking of a controversial comedian, but said the show must go on.
Frankie Boyle will perform as planned at the Falls Park next week, organisers have insisted, despite the escalation of a campaign to have the controversial comic scrapped as a headline act.
It is understood that cancelling the Boyle gig would have financially ruined the festival.
The cost of refunding tickets and also honouring the comedian's contract would cost the Feile tens of thousands of pounds.
Feile organisers met with protesters, including the families of children with Down's syndrome who were left furious at the booking of Boyle, notorious for making tasteless jokes about those with disabilities.
Protest group Feile for All had demanded that the Glaswegian be axed, but appear to have been placated following a meeting with organisers.
A statement detailing what compromise has been reached will be released later this week.
Feile director Kevin Gamble said: "Feile would not set out in any way to cause any hurt or offence and for any hurt or offence that has been caused, Feile would have no problem in saying we are sorry hurt has been caused."
Feile founder Gerry Adams indicated yesterday morning as he attended a launch event that the festival could not afford to cancel Boyle.
He told the Belfast Telegraph that a contract had been signed and cancellation would cost a lot of money to the event which was "run on a shoestring".
"There are a lot of figures flying about, I can't say how much it would cost but it is a lot of money," he said.
Mr Adams spoke at the launch about how Feile was first conceived in 1988, saying he was fed up with west Belfast being demonised and described how it was to showcase the talent from the area.
Continuing that spirit, he told the Belfast Telegraph that Feile had "no interest in offending anyone at all".
"People with Down's syndrome and special needs are a strong part of Feile," he said.
"I can see why people are offended. It is a difficult issue for the families who will be offended."
A Feile spokesman said the Boyle gig on August 7 had sold more than 2,000 tickets and was the most popular comedy event the festival had ever run.
Only Boyzone had been more popular, he revealed.
Meanwhile local mental health charity Mencap has joined those expressing concerns about Boyle's appearance.
"At Mencap, we're here to support people with a learning disability and their families and we will always speak out against those that are abusive towards people based on their disability," he said.
"Frankie Boyle has, in the past, made comments that deeply upset people who have a learning disability, and their families, friends and many others.
"We know this is a concern for families we support in Northern Ireland and we have met with Feile an Phobail to pass on their concerns."
Last week one of the founders of Feile broke ranks to urge organisers to cancel the gig.
Former Lord Mayor and Sinn Fein councillor Tom Hartley has a brother, Stephen, who has Down's syndrome.
"I do think, for me, it poses an ethical question for how Feile an Phobail sees itself," he said.
"Feile an Phobail emerged from a community with a view of itself. It is a difficult one (the booking of Boyle), there is a fine line between freedom of speech and the rights of those with disabilities and Down's syndrome.
"Would, for instance, you invite a comedian that was homophobic, a comedian that was racist? I don't think so. I think Feile will sort this out, they are people with an ethical view of the world."