Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland bike show cancelled after boycott over organisers' Tommy Robinson support

By Leona O'Neill

A high-profile bike show has been cancelled after some bikers said they would boycott it following claims that two of the event organisers were supporters of far-right activist Tommy Robinson.

The Roaring Meg custom, classic bike, trike and scooter 10th anniversary show, part of the Gasyard Feile community festival in Londonderry, was due to take place on Saturday.

In previous years thousands of visitors had flocked to the event, which saw hundreds of custom and classic bikes converge on the city's walls.

Organisers have long used the show to raise money for local charities.

But yesterday its organisers took to Facebook to say that 'due to matters out of their control' this year's event has been 'postponed'.

The boycott came after Larne-based Roaring Meg event organiser Barbara Shaw lent her support to Robinson.

Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, founded the English Defence League, a 'far-right street protest movement opposed to the spread of militant Islam', in 2009.

In May of this year, he was jailed for contempt of court after live-streaming a report of a trial in Leeds.

He was arrested following a judge ruled that media reports of proceedings should be postponed until the end of all related cases.

Robinson's arrest sparked a mass protest outside Downing Street as supporters called for his release.

Some members of the biking community were outraged after Mrs Shaw changed her Facebook profile picture to that of Robinson with the hashtag #FreeTommy as well as sharing other posts relating to him.

Her husband Stephen - a fellow organiser of the Roaring Meg event - also shared a video from controversial Belfast councillor Jolene Bunting of a 'free speech rally' backing Robinson.

Last night Mrs Shaw said that her support of Robinson was solely 'because of his journalistic work exposing paedophiles' and not because of his racist and right-wing views.

"It's absolutely crazy," she told the Belfast Telegraph.

"I shared that on my own personal Facebook page months ago.

"I'm not in support of Tommy Robinson at all. The Government were stopping him from reporting on child sex trafficking rings.

"That is what I'm against - the paedophile rings that the media are not allowed to report on, because I have a close relative who was sexually abused as a child."

However, the posts were controversial, with some bikers saying they would boycott this weekend's event.

But Mrs Shaw said the show should not have been brought into it.

"It's nothing to do with the Roaring Meg," she added.

"I mean I could support men dressed as fairies and share it and it would have nothing to do with the organising of the Roaring Meg at all."

Mrs Shaw said that they would 'not be back in Derry' and that a special charity bikers 'ride-out' due to take place today in memory of tragic teenager Alexandra Johnston, who died of cancer in January, was also cancelled. On her support for Robinson, Mrs Shaw said: "They have totally got it wrong.

"That wasn't the only post I shared. I've shared a lot of posts and you can clearly see the sentiment from what I'm sharing is that I'm against these paedophile rings.

"I couldn't give a toss about Tommy Robinson - this goes deeper underneath it all."

She added: "We're not Catholic, not Protestant, not anything, it's all about the bikes.

"And what I have on my own private Facebook page is my own personal opinion."

The Gasyard Feile was contacted by the Belfast Telegraph but was unavailable for comment on the matter at the time of going to print.

Belfast Telegraph

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