Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Feile organisers have questions to answer

Editor's Viewpoint

It would be a real optimist who believes that a Wolfe Tones concert could be regarded as either inclusive or part of an outreach programme to unionists.

As Sinn Fein says, the band is a republican group and its playlist includes many rebel songs which those of a non-republican background would not appreciate.

It would not have taken any great leap of imagination to forecast that their concert in Falls Park on Sunday night would attract undesirable behaviour from some of the 10,000-strong crowd.

There was chanting of pro-Provo sentiments and flags with IRA written on them.

Little wonder, then, that there has been sharp criticism of this closing act of the 30th Feile an Phobail. It attracts considerable sums of public money and is billed as an inclusive festival.

And it can point to a number of events, including one entirely given over to unionist politicians, which fulfilled that remit. It would be unfair to denigrate the entire festival on one event, indeed, the very last one on the programme.

However, the criticism should not be seen as a simple attack on the festival by those whose involvement is peripheral. In cases like this it is often instructive to imagine the reaction if the boot, as it were, was on the other foot.

Had this been a publicly-funded festival in east Belfast where many young people were seen chanting "up the UVF" or "up the UDA", it is likely that nationalist political representatives would have been similarly outraged as unionists were in this instance.

It is clear that funders and sponsors will have to demand answers from the festival organisers on why this event was staged.

The chanting and flag waving by the crowd was all the more distasteful since earlier in the day a commemoration was held in Omagh to mark the 20th anniversary of the republican bombing in the town that killed 31 people, including two unborn children.

That surely demonstrated to all but the deliberately blind that there is no glamour, no humanity even, in terrorism, and anything that attempts to glorify it should be shunned.

What we witnessed in Falls Park was another example of the insidious and corrosive sectarianism which bedevils our society.

It is being given free rein by the lack of political leadership through the absence of a devolved government and any genuine attempt to address the lack of mutual respect.

Belfast Telegraph

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