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Belfast festival under pressure to drop Frankie Boyle from its bill

By David Young

Published 27/06/2015

Frankie Boyle has upset many by joking about people with Down’s syndrome
Frankie Boyle has upset many by joking about people with Down’s syndrome

Pressure is building on Belfast's Feile an Phobail to drop controversial Scots comic Frankie Boyle from this year's festival programme.

He's been booked for the Feile despite a public outcry - reported in the Belfast Telegraph at the start of June - over jokes he made about people with Down's syndrome.

In 2010 Boyle faced criticism from the parents of a five-year-old girl with Down's after a sold-out gig in Reading.

During his performance, some jokes involved remarks about Down's syndrome children.

Now a change.org petition calling on the Feile to cancel Boyle's appearance has attracted almost 700 signatures.

It says: "Feile an Phobail is a community organisation and claims to promote equality and inclusion within the community.

"Allowing Frankie Boyle as a main act in the Feile does not comply with their policy of inclusion.

"By allowing Frankie Boyle to be a part of the Feile, this is suggesting that those most vulnerable in our society do not deserve the same equality as the rest of the community."

The Boyle controversy also hit the airwaves through the BBC's Stephen Nolan Show

In a statement a spokesman for the Feile told Nolan that they have met recently with representatives of the Stephen Hartley Down's Syndrome Support Group and Kids Together Belfast.

The Feile statement said that they had listened to the deeply felt concerns and the obvious disappointment of the groups in regard to the fact that Frankie Boyle was booked, and apologised for creating a situation where any individual with a disability from their community felt isolated and ostracised.

Quoting directly from the Feile statement, Nolan told his listeners: "Going forward, Feile will take all of the issues and concerns raised this year on board and will duly consider them when booking future events."

Callers to the show were upset that taxpayers' money was being spent on what they felt was a man whose comedy insulted people who are in no position to answer back - though some defended the booking on free speech grounds.

"Are there no comedians in Northern Ireland that they have to bring in this guy - who's not even funny?" said one caller.

But the Feile's decision to press on with the controversial show - despite their recogition of the hurt the booking of Boyle has caused - will have given fresh energy to their critics.

And with over a month to go until the gig on August 7, this controversy looks to be far from over.

  • Tickets to see Frankie Boyle in Falls Park are £25.

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