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Frankie Boyle's Belfast show 'will be setback to work of disability groups'

By Rebecca Black

Published 24/07/2015

The appearance of a controversial comedian at a Belfast festival risks setting back awareness of disability issues here, it has been warned.

Feile for All has been set up in opposition to the booking of Frankie Boyle to headline the West Belfast Festival.

The group includes parents of disabled children and is set this afternoon to protest over Boyle's gig outside the offices of Feile on the Falls Road.

Scottish comedian Boyle has faced criticism for tasteless jokes about disabled children, including those with Down's syndrome.

Boyle is due to perform at Falls Park as part of the Feile an Phobail next month.

Feile for All has emphasised that it is not against the festival, and praised the work it has done in the past.

But said it was disgusted it has booked Boyle for a major performance as part of the annual event.

It has also expressed disappointment at the response from Feile an Phobail to its concerns and that it is continuing with the booking.

In a statement it said: "In meetings with Feile, the Stephen Hartley Down's Syndrome Support Group and Kids Together Belfast were assured that their concerns were being addressed appropriately and that they took onboard the hurt and offence they had caused to a vulnerable section of our community and their families."

But it felt a tweet by Feile director Kevin Gamble was dismissive of its concerns.

In a statement the group said: "With this in mind public opposition has been galvanised in the newly formed group Feile for All who will continue to oppose the booking of Frankie Boyle by Feile an Phobail. In the following weeks we will endeavour to ensure, that the equality, respect and inclusion of our most vulnerable children and adults is highlighted."

At the protest outside Feile offices on the Falls Road today, the group plans to hand in a petition against Boyle's performance.

Bridgeen McKenna from Kids Together Belfast said Boyle's appearance will set back its work.

"We do a lot of work advocating for people who have kids with various disabilities, we offer family support and programmes for children with disabilities," she said.

"One of the major issues we have is Feile is a community festival. They go on about being pro-access for people with disabilities. I don't see how they can stand up and say they represent the whole community and represent people with disabilities when they have booked Frankie Boyle as a headline act.

"We don't feel that having a guy who does not uphold those same values (should be) headlining. Feile's aims are about diversity and inclusion."

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