Mum challenges Frankie Boyle to meet Down's syndrome daughter
The mother of a 12-year-old girl with Down's syndrome has invited Frankie Boyle to meet her daughter.
Roisin Curran was among protesters who demonstrated outside the offices of Feile an Phobail yesterday to plead with organisers not to bring the controversial comedian to Belfast.
She has challenged Feile organiser Kevin Gamble to "do what is right".
Up to 100 parents, children with disabilities and their siblings gathered with posters and placards pleading with bosses to change their minds.
They say Boyle's presence betrays the principles of the festival, which is about inclusivity and championing those without a voice, and also worry that if Boyle repeats his jokes about disabled children, they will be repeated across the city.
Ms Curran, whose daughter Mia has Down's syndrome, urged Mr Gamble to cancel the Boyle performance.
"I am asking Kevin Gamble to do the right thing, not what makes better business sense, but what is the right thing," she told the Belfast Telegraph.
"It can be hard to do the right thing, but I'm asking him to do it - not for me, but for Mia."
The south Belfast mum-of-three said her daughter had only ever known acceptance and added that when she first heard of Boyle's booking, she assumed it was a mistake.
"This threatens to take us back in terms of acceptance," Ms Curran said. "Mia has never known anything other than acceptance, all the way through nursery and school she has only ever known welcome.
"Mia may be stubborn sometimes, but she would never do anything with malice. I challenge him (Boyle) to come and meet her."
Maura McDonald and Michelle Maginn, from Poleglass, are the mother and step-mother of seven-year-old Rhys, who also has the condition.
Michelle said they could not believe it when they saw posters advertising the comedian as playing at the festival.
"We actually couldn't believe that it would even enter the Feile's heads to have such a man as Frankie Boyle at the festival," she added.
"We Facebooked them, emailed them and rang them, but they just keep on fobbing us off.
"And we love Feile, we go every year, everybody goes. It is not Feile we object to, it's him - he's vile.
"Rhys can't stand up for himself. If he was being bullied in school we would stand up for him, and this is exactly the same."
They fear Boyle playing in Belfast will normalise jokes against people with disabilities and set all of society back in terms of acceptance.
Maura told how the past experience of hearing an adult call her child a "Mongolian" had informed her view.
"For an adult to say that, I was boiling with rage, because if an adult says that, their kids will listen and will think that is acceptable," she said. "We need to teach our kids that it is not right to make jokes like that."
But she also told how little Rhys was surrounded by love and how his sisters and brothers - particularly his 10-year-old brother Corey - were fiercely protective of him.
And the family paid tribute to Glenanne Boxing Club for giving Rhys a taste of boxing, which he loves.
Seamus and Laura Flannigan, from the Glen Road area, who have seven-year-old son with autism, also said they were against Boyle headlining the community festival.
"We all know the comments Boyle has made, so why have him at Feile - a festival which was set up to encompass all?" they asked.
"It goes against the ethics of Feile.
"The one word that comes to mind is hypocrisy.
"What we want is to educate people.
"We would hope that Boyle is cancelled and that the same mistake is not made again."