Protestors converge on Falls to oppose Boyle show

Protesters gather to hand in a petition calling for Feile an Phobail to cancel a show by Frankie Boyle. Picture by Mal McCann
John Monaghan

MORE than 100 protesters gathered in west Belfast yesterday to call on Féile an Phobail to cancel a gig by controversial Scottish comedian Frankie Boyle.

The show, planned for the Falls Park on August 7, is due to go ahead despite objections by the group Féile for All, who are angered by jokes Boyle has made about people with Down's syndrome.

One of those protesting, John Lundy, whose 12-year-old daughter Mia has the condition, told The Irish News that the comedian "mocks children" in an unacceptable way.

"Féile markets itself as a community festival. These jokes go from the Féile tent, to the bar, to the home, and into schools. This man made jokes about the death of people with Down's syndrome and their appearance," he said.

"It is wrong that people with Down's syndrome are made to believe this is all fair game."

More than 1,300 people have signed an online petition and a further 1,000 Facebook users have called for the show at the west Belfast festival to be cancelled.

Protesters attempted to hand in the petition at the Feile offices on the Falls Road yesterday, but there was no response.

Mr Lundy said: "We don't think this is suitable for a community festival which is supported by taxpayers' money.

"We think this is a retrograde step and we want Féile to man up and cancel it."

Féile an Phobail could not be reached for comment yesterday, but has previously said it has listened to the concerns of groups and will take them on board when booking future events.

Organisers are due to meet Féile for All on Monday, but Mr Lundy said the protesters were "ruling nothing out".

He said: "Personally I have had a lot of trouble getting through to Féile to speak to them. It took about five weeks. They were making statements through the media saying they would meet us.

"We are looking to step up our protests. The Féile has been given enough time to respond here."

Political representatives have been muted on the issue, with "some privately telling me they are not going to comment", according to Mr Lundy.

"A lot of people are asking what are our public representatives saying about this? We would like someone to have the moral courage to say this isn't on."

At the time of the announcement of the gig, Féile said it was "bloody chuffed" to have secured the services of the Scottish comedian.

For his part, Boyle has steered clear of commenting on the controversy, with his most recent tweet stating he was looking forward to the Belfast gig.

The Glaswegian has made headlines several times in recent years after objections were raised about jokes directed at the royal family, the Pope, cancer victims and the disabled.

In January, he said a radio comedy show planned for the BBC had been cancelled due to a joke he made about the IRA murder of Lord Mountbatten.


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