Belfast Telegraph

Boycott Feile an Phobail until it stops asking band to play gig, says TUV's Allister

Jim Allister
Jim Allister

By Suzanne Breen, political editor

TUV leader Jim Allister has called on unionist politicians to boycott Feile an Phobail until it stops hosting The Wolfe Tone concerts.

Some of the crowd chanted "Up the RA" at the group's gig in Falls Park on Sunday. Mr Allister said it was time for unionists to do more than complain.

A "pattern" had emerged in recent years of unionist speakers joining festival discussion panels, then the IRA would be "glorified" at another festival event such as The Wolfe Tones concert, he said.

The presence of unionists at the debates was "used as cover" when the Feile was challenged about "the celebration of the PIRA", he claimed. "The time has come for unionists to stop providing that cover and boycott the festival," he said.

Until the Feile organisers showed sensitivity to IRA victims, "no unionist should attend any event at the festival", he added.

A leaders' debate in St Mary's College was attended by DUP MP Gregory Campbell and UUP MLA Doug Beattie. But the DUP last night wouldn't rule out attending again, claiming it did so to promote unionism.

A spokesperson said: "We have never shied away from going to events to promote the unionist case. As the largest political party in Northern Ireland, we accept invitations that we judge require a strong unionist voice to be heard.

"To that end, we will continue to judge invitations on their merit and in the context of promoting the Union.

"We reject the glorification of terror in all forms and such behaviour should form no part of events that are publicly funded.

"Our representatives are seeking answers on how such an event could be so offensive given its receipt of funding."

The Feile receives £200,000 funding from Belfast City Council.

Ulster Unionist councillor Jim Rodgers said he had written to the council's chief executive, Suzanne Wylie, asking for an investigation into The Wolfe Tones event.

"I have been contacted by angry rate-payers," he said.

"There was a lot of positive events at the festival, but the scenes at The Wolfe Tones concert were disgraceful.

"I would say exactly the same if a loyalist crowd shouted 'Up the UDA/UFF/UVF',"

The veteran UUP councillor said he would also be meeting senior PSNI officers to discuss the event.

Speaking on Radio Ulster yesterday, Feile director Kevin Gamble said the festival had welcomed The Wolfe Tones for the past 10 years and he would not ask the band to stop playing certain songs.

"We welcome people from a multitude of different communities and opinions," he said.

"In no way am I going to ask a band to stop singing a song.

"That is censorship and not what Feile is involved in doing."

He said no public funding went towards staging The Wolfe Tones concert, which was a commercial event.

The Feile met all the criteria for its public funding, which was "checked and monitored", he said.

"We can stand over every single penny that we spend," he added.

The council said the Feile "presents an eclectic range of over 300 inclusive arts and cultural activities over a 10-day period enjoyed by people from across Belfast and beyond".

A spokesperson added: "Whilst the council supports the festival on this basis, funding provided is not to be used for commercial activity, of which The Wolfe Tones event is one.

"As part of the terms of our funding, the grant must comply with statutory equality provisions."

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