Belfast Telegraph

More sour notes over Ardoyne Fleadh as MLAs squabble over band's jibe

By Noel McAdam

Stormont Culture Minister Caral Ni Chuilin says she has not ruled out future public funding for the Ardoyne Fleadh despite the row after a band urged British soldiers and their "Orange comrades" to go back to England.

The Sinn Fein minister was asked in the Assembly what sanctions she is considering following the remarks by The Druids, for which the organisers of the annual fleadh apologised.

The DUP's William Humphrey condemned the verbal outburst during a concert last month as having been hateful, racist and appalling.

Ms Ni Chuilin responded that she hoped the DUP member would support her when bands "who parade and play offensive tunes outside places of worship" should have their funding and sponsorship scrutinised as well. The SDLP's Alban Maginness said the organising committee for the event had acted in a forthright manner by condemning the remarks and urged the minister to allow an application by the fleadh "in order to extend cross-community outreach".

The DUP has already voiced outrage over the decision of the Public Prosecution Service not to prosecute after the Co Kildare-based group's singer Mick O'Brien said the remarks "wouldn't be our normal comments as such".

North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds said the decision "beggars belief" and added: "In Scotland prosecutions have been successfully pursued against those who sang the so-called Famine Song, yet the republican equivalent has been given the green light by the PSNI and PPS in Northern Ireland. Why?"

His party also intends to pursue the controversy on Assembly committees and raised it at the Arts and Culture Minister's question time yesterday.

She replied: "I was very disappointed and saddened by the remarks The Druids made."

The minister added she had also welcomed the immediate response from the organisers.

"Indeed, I do condemn any sectarian remarks," she added.

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.

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