Mr Kevin Gamble
Féile an Phobail
141-143 Falls Road
Dear Mr Gamble,
I am writing in relation to the Wolfe Tones concert scheduled to take place as part of the Féile an Phobail in Falls Park on 14th August.
As you will be aware, this annual event has regrettably become associated with singing and chanting in support of proscribed paramilitary organisations. Legitimate concern has been expressed previously regarding the apparent direction given from the stage to those in attendance to engage in this form of activity, including many young people.
I trust you will agree that if replicated 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.
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 concert-goers 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 S75 of the 1998 Act?
You will acknowledge that I have previously accepted that the majority of events included in the Feile’s annual programme to be positive and law-abiding. Indeed, the approach adopted by the DUP group on Belfast City Council has sought to reflect this at every stage. However, this does not detract from the outstanding and deepening concerns aforementioned. 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.
To this end, I look forward to hearing from you in the near future.
Brian Kingston MLA
Democratic Unionist Party