Belfast Telegraph

I’m glad I went but IRA chants soured Feile, says mother of Shankill bomb victim

Gina Murray urges festival bosses to stop inviting The Wolfe Tones

Gina Murray at the play What If at Feile in St Mary’s University College, Belfast
Gina Murray at the play What If at Feile in St Mary’s University College, Belfast
An emotional Gina Murray is consoled by her niece Alicia Brown
The Wolfe Tones perform at Falls Park
Some of the thousands who attended the concert
Gina’s daughter Leanne, who died in the Shankill bombing
Brett Campbell

By Brett Campbell

The mother of a teenage girl killed in the Shankill bomb has branded pro-IRA chants during a west Belfast festival "hurtful" and called on organisers to take responsibility.

Gina Murray, whose daughter Leanne (13) was murdered by the IRA on October 23, 1993, attended the screening of the play What If, based on her experiences, during the opening night of Feile an Phobail.

"I never thought I would ever be at the Feile and was wary about going, but I forced myself to do it," she said.

"Unfortunately, it has been thrown in my face by those who chose to end the festival by chanting pro-IRA slogans.

"It has soured what was a very positive experience.

"It is wrong and clearly more needs to be done to make the Feile a cross-community event."

It was the first time Ms Murray had attended the publicly funded festival, which was brought to a close by Irish rebel band The Wolfe Tones, who headlined a gig in Falls Park on Sunday night.

Footage later emerged showing some of the 10,000 fans chanting "Up the Ra" during the performance.

Last year members of the crowd flew Irish tricolours daubed with IRA slogans as the band played songs with controversial lyrics.

"It was a big decision for me to take part by attending the play," Ms Murray said.

"I never even thought it (the play) would even get accepted, but it did and I was so happy about that because this is not just about the Troubles.

"It's about a mother's experience of grief, which is not exclusive to me or one side of the community. Everyone suffers as a result of bereavement."

Leanne Murray was one of nine innocent people who lost their lives when a bomb exploded in Frizzell's fish shop on a busy Saturday afternoon.

Bomber Thomas Begley also died in the atrocity.

His accomplice Sean Kelly was among the 57 injured.

Ms Murray said she was overwhelmed by the response to her story, as written and directed by acclaimed Irish playwright Patricia Downey, after it took centre stage on opening night.

But she was left disappointed after the festival's closing night overshadowed its success.

"It took me 45 minutes to get out of the room after the play because so many people, mainly from Catholic backgrounds, were coming to talk to me, which was just brilliant," she said.

"One Catholic mother came up to me and told me, 'We all go through grief', which goes to show that we can all be in the same situation sometimes.

"I'm glad I went, but it's a pity that those who were chanting brought everything down.

"They didn't do any good for community relations. Sunday night was a big let-down."

Feile an Phobail director Kevin Gamble did not respond to a request for comment. However, he told BBC Radio Ulster yesterday organisers were "not in the business of censoring" any act.

He said he was not prepared to ask the band, which has performed at the festival for the past 10 years, to stop playing certain songs.

"Anybody who comes to Feile are provided a platform for the last 31 years to express opinions," Mr Gamble added.

However, Ms Murray said organisers, including the director, must be more careful about who participated in the festival if they wanted it to be enjoyed by everyone.

"They need to stop inviting The Wolfe Tones," she said.

"People like me will be discouraged from going while this continues and that is disappointing.

"I suspect it was a younger generation involved and unfortunately they are easily led by certain elements seeking to exploit them.

"It's very hurtful, but what can you say to them that will make them listen?"

Loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson said he had reported the incident to the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland.

Writing online, he claimed there would be "significant unionist attention" on how the regulator deals with "issues around Feile's endorsement of the promotion of IRA terrorism".

"Failure to robustly investigate will confirm what many perceive to be an inherent bias," Mr Bryson added.

A commission spokesperson said they could not comment as they did not wish to prejudice "any current or potential investigation".

Belfast City Council said the Feile was supported on the basis that it "presents an eclectic range of over 300 inclusive arts and cultural activities" and complies with equality rules.

It added that funding was "not to be used for commercial activity, of which The Wolfe Tones event is one".

Ulster Unionist councillor Jim Rodgers urged the council to launch a probe into the matter and is seeking a meeting with police to discuss the incident.

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