Belfast Telegraph

Ardoyne Fleadh: 'Irish rebel band' accused of making 'hate speech and glorifying IRA' at event

By Amanda Ferguson

There has been a furious reaction after pro-IRA chanting during a set by a self-described Irish rebel band at a north Belfast festival.

Footage was taken of a performance by Kildare band The Druids on the final night of the annual Ardoyne Fleadh.

The video, taken on Sunday evening at the event licensed by Belfast City Council, shows one member of the band saying: "As we stand here tonight in Ardoyne we're well aware that here in the occupied six counties of Ireland there are still over five thousand British soldiers parading around the streets of Ireland as if they owned it.

"It's about time that they took down their little Union jacks, it's about time that they got all their Orange comrades together, it's about time that they loaded up the bus and it's about time that they all f****d off back to England where they came from."

This was met with cheers from many in the 5,000-strong audience who turned out to watch The Druids perform songs such as Go On Home British Soldiers, Free Gaza, The Sky Over Ireland and The Fields of Athenry. The DUP has submitted a formal complaint to the PSNI about what is described as "the anti-British and anti-Protestant hate speech and the glorification of terrorism at this event".

Organisers of the event have now said "it was wrong, regrettable, disappointing and should not have happened".

A PSNI spokesman said: "The PSNI have received a complaint and enquiries are ongoing."

DUP councillor Lee Reynolds, who has made a number of complaints about the event over the past few years, told the Belfast Telegraph it should not receive any public funding in the future.

"This turn of events comes as no surprise whatsoever," he said.

"It is up to Sinn Fein, the SDLP and Alliance, and the Lord Mayor (the SDLP's Nichola Mallon) who has previously defended this event, to be made accountable for allowing it to proceed.

"I believe this behaviour is justifiable grounds for pulling all public funding for the event and the two sponsors Ladbrokes and Flax Trust should disassociate themselves from it."

Asked about the contents of the video, The Druids' lead singer Mick O'Brien said comments had been "taken out of context".

"That is not what was said at all," he added. "From a republican point of view there is still occupation of Ireland. Basically what we were saying is that there is still occupation of Ireland. We would like to see that changed and see a 32 county republic.

"We never mentioned the IRA once during our set. There is no doubt a united Ireland will be brought about by peaceful means. The day is coming fast when we will have a united Ireland.

"Under the Good Friday agreement, the self determination thing, it is nearly time for an all-Ireland referendum."

A spokesman for Belfast City Council said a figure for funding the event from its grant office was not available as yesterday was a holiday.

It later confirmed the event had not received any funding from Belfast City Council.

"We haven't received any formal complaints but if we do they will be fully investigated in line with the terms and conditions of any grant aid received and a full report will be brought to the appropriate committee in due course," he added.

A spokesman for the Ardoyne Fleadh and the Lord Mayor of Belfast were unavailable to comment. However, SDLP MLA Alban Maginness said instances of intolerance should be challenged by everyone, regardless of the community they come from.

"I wasn't present for the act he refers to, however, if there was indeed any instance of intolerant speech then that is wrong.

"Many of us are trying to create a city of reconciled citizens at peace with themselves. The SDLP strongly condemn republican and loyalist intolerance."

Mr Maginness added: "It would, however, be incredibly short sighted to end an entire community festival which encompasses art, sport and political debate based on the actions of one group."

Meanwhile, a 24-year-old man was shot in a paramilitary-style shooting in Ardoyne close to where the community festival was taking place on Sunday.

 

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