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Down's syndrome group's fury as Frankie Boyle booked for Belfast festival

By Victoria O'Hara

Published 12/06/2015

Frankie Boyle is known for his close to the bone humour
Frankie Boyle is known for his close to the bone humour

Organisers of the West Belfast Festival say that they stand by their decision to book the controversial comedian Frankie Boyle, despite facing opposition from a Down's syndrome support group that described it as "in poor taste".

The Scottish comedian will headline the successful annual Feile an Phobail - which attracts tens of thousands of people - in August, however the move has angered the Stephen Hartley Down's Syndrome Support Group.

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.

Julie Farrelly from the Stephen Hartley Down's Syndrome Support Group said that she was "bitterly disappointed" by the booking.

"My seven-year-old son Matthew has Down's," she said.

"Frankie Boyle's words have been documented, the media has covered his comments in making fun of how those with Down's syndrome speak. Matthew has no speech.

"What gives Frankie Boyle the right to make fun of my child and other children?" she asked in the Andersonstown News.

In a statement the festival organisers said that they were "fiercely proud" that it was a festival with events to appeal to people of all tastes from all communities.

"We take all complaints very seriously and understand and sympathise with the upset that has been caused to some people with the booking of Frankie Boyle.

"In fact, we directly engaged with any complaints that have been brought to us," a spokesman said.

"While we appreciate that comedy might not be for everyone, we stand by the booking, which has caught the imagination of many comedy lovers within our community and beyond. We would like to emphasise also that this is just one event within a very broad programme, and our passion and commitment to disability access is second to none.

"For example, we have a year-round disability arts project that engages directly with people with a disability to improve access to and participation in the arts.

"We will continue to listen and to respond personally to any organisations or individuals that have expressed concern at any bookings concerning artists."

Management representing Mr Boyle did not respond to a request by the Belfast Telegraph for a comment.

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