A DUP MLA has asked west Belfast’s Féile an Phobail to detail “mitigations” put in place to stop “chanting in support of proscribed paramilitary organisations” ahead of a Wolfe Tones concert on Sunday.
he Wolfe Tones, whose set-list traditionally features Irish rebel songs, are set to play in Falls Park from 3pm to 6pm on Sunday.
Last year, footage online of the group’s Féile performance appeared to show some concertgoers involved in pro-IRA chants, including some singing “P-I-R-A”.
In previous years there have also been complaints about pro-IRA chanting from unionists over the festival, which attracts tens of thousands to west Belfast each year.
In his letter to Féile’s director Kevin Gamble, Brian Kingston said there has been “legitimate concern” expressed about the Wolfe Tones’ concerts.
While he said he “accepted that the majority of events included in the Feile’s annual programme [are] positive and law-abiding”, Mr Kingston added that “such behaviour sends entirely the wrong message to this and future generations and undermines support for the rule of law in our society.”
“The glorification of terrorism and the elevation of those who engaged wilfully in acts of sectarian violence should have no place in the celebration or expression of local arts and heritage in any community in Northern Ireland,” he added.
“Moreover, it would be wrong and immoral for public funds to be used to support and facilitate such behaviour, whether directly or indirectly, and particularly where suspected breaches of the law and potentially adverse impacts on good relations have been foreseen but not actively mitigated.
“In this context, I would be grateful if you could detail any mitigations that have been put in place to prevent or discourage sectarian and paramilitary-focused chanting ahead of Sunday’s concert which takes place in a Council-owned park?
“Have organisers engaged proactively with the band in respect of the potential for such behaviour?
“What communication has there been with concertgoers and local communities to dissuade singing of this nature?
“Finally, what practical arrangements have been put in place to ensure that the concert promotes good relations in the context of Council strategy and [Section]75 of the 1998 Act?
“Nothing at a Council venue compares to this event, in terms of young people being led from the stage in the chanting of support for a proscribed paramilitary organisation responsible for thousands of deaths and injuries in this city and beyond.
“You will acknowledge the seriousness of these concerns, not just for those who I represent, but for the victims of crime as well as the overwhelming majority of people in Northern Ireland who reject violence and are committed to the rule of law.”
This year’s Féile an Phobail has marked the festival’s largest to date, with over 300 events across the two weeks.
The Wolfe Tones concert in the park will close out the festival’s main series of music concerts, following the Back To the 80s concert on Saturday and Irish Voices with Imelda May, Damien Dempsey and Kneecap on Friday.
Féile an Phobail has been contacted for a response.