Belfast Telegraph

Monday 20 October 2014

Ardoyne Fleadh to review its acts following rebel band furore which included sectarian comment

Chairman of the Ardoyne Fleadh Cheoil Eddie Copeland

Organisers of the Ardoyne Fleadh have vowed to review its future acts to ensure there is no repeat of a controversial performance which included a sectarian comment.

Chairman of the Ardoyne Fleadh Cheoil Eddie Copeland said he "regrets any offence caused" during a concert on Sunday night by a self-described Irish rebel band The Druids.

There was outrage after footage emerged of the band performing in north Belfast and saying "it was time British soldiers and their Orange comrades "f****d off back to England where they came from".

A PSNI spokesman confirmed it had received "hate crime" complaints and inquiries were ongoing into the incident, which took place at Holy Cross Boys' School pitches in Flax Street.

Mr Copeland said: "We regret any offence caused by this incident. It was wrong, regrettable, disappointing and should not have happened. These comments do not reflect the views of the organisers or the people of Ardoyne.

"The Ardoyne Fleadh is a community festival that has been running for 24 years. We are a totally voluntary group who struggle yearly to raise the funds necessary to make the event happen which gives thousands of local people a positive outlet.

"The organising committee will be reviewing guidelines in relation to performers and acts to ensure this does not happen again."

One of the fleadh's supporters, the Community Relations Council, said it will be asking festival organisers whether the conditions of the grant it awarded have been complied with. A statement said: "The Community Relations Council supported this year's fleadh by means of a £5,000 grant towards infrastructure costs and marketing.

"No element was allocated towards the cost of performers. The grant was subject to conditions, one of which was that it should be used to support the values and aims of the Community Relations Council."

The event was licensed by Belfast City Council but a spokesman said this year's fleadh did not receive any funding.

Meanwhile, DUP education spokesman Mervyn Storey has raised questions over the usage of a primary school as the venue for the concert.

The North Antrim MLA said: "The concert by The Druids was in the grounds of Holy Cross Boys Primary School, and not only did the singer make the comments which are being investigated, but the song in question is focused on 'British solders go on home' and how they will 'never defeat the IRA'," he added.

"There were also songs which included chanting of 'Ooh aah, up the 'Ra'."

Sinn Fein councillor Jim McVeigh said: "Sectarian comments made at this event are wrong.

"Sectarianism is wrong and has no place at music or cultural events."

BACKGROUND

The Ardoyne Fleadh Cheoil attracts thousands of people to north Belfast each summer and generates thousands of pounds for the local economy. In 2012 a total of 110 complaints linked to the event were made regarding noise. This fell to 10 complaints in 2013. There was one arrest at the 2013 event and none this year. However, a 24-year-old man was shot in a paramilitary-style attack close to the where the community festival was taking place on Sunday.

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