Northern Ireland news

Young children among those chanting IRA support at Féile

The concert marked the end of the biggest outdoor Féile an Phobail ever held

Children were among those chanting support for the IRA during a concert marking the end of the biggest outdoor Féile an Phobail ever held.

There was widespread criticism of the scenes at the Wolfe Tones' concert on Sunday night, with unionist councillors leading calls for public funding to be withdrawn from the west Belfast festival.

However, Féile organisers stressed that the concert by the Irish folk and rebel band was not financially supported by the council.

Féile director Kevin Gamble said the first large outdoor festival to take place in the city after the easing of restrictions - which had four vaccination clinics at the Falls Park concert venue - was "a record year with record attendances across all of our events".

"Our three large outdoor concerts sold out. Our three comedy nights sold out. Our in-person literary events sold out. Our Féile Fight Night sold out. All in record time... (with) the demand for tickets... unsurpassed in the history of Féile an Phobail."

But video footage circulated on social media showed children among members of the Wolfe Tones audience chanting "The I, The I, The IRA." One young boy punches the air as he sings in support of the paramilitary group.

DUP leader on Belfast City Council Brian Kingston said he would be investigating whether it had been granted any money from the local authority as well as putting pressure on commercial sponsors to condemn the chants.

"The PIRA murdered and maimed thousands of people in Northern Ireland. For concert goers to celebrate the PIRA is sickening. If public funding was used to pay for such a concert then it should be recouped immediately," said Mr Kingston.

"Belfast City Council stands for inclusiveness and a shared future. If people wish to sing about the PIRA, they should forgo the ability to receive any public money.

"For the council to be associated with such offensive behaviour on the anniversary of the Omagh Bomb is disgusting and reprehensible.

"I will also be investigating what other commercial sponsors were involved in the event and asking them to publicly distance themselves.

"This is now an annual tradition where every year hundreds of teenagers, led by people who should know better, glorify the PIRA in song."

However, the Féile director insisted: "The Wolfe Tones concert at Féile receives no public funding. We are also more than happy to meet with Councillor Kingston at any time to discuss."

Child protection expert and former senior PSNI officer Jim Gamble also criticised the concert, saying: "If this was an event elsewhere and related to singing about the UVF there'd rightly be outrage. So disappointing, divisive, totally predictable and unnecessary."

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