Monday 16 October 2017

Gerry Adams 'understands distress' over comedian Frankie Boyle show in festival

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams

Michael McHugh

Gerry Adams has said he understands the hurt and distress caused by Scottish comedian Frankie Boyle's appearance in west Belfast.

But the Sinn Fein president said he was the right type of act for the West Belfast Festival.

Frankie Boyle
Frankie Boyle

Belfast councillor Tom Hartley, whose brother Stephen has Down's syndrome, objected following Boyle's past jokes about the disabled.

Boyle will attend the event next week for a sell-out show in Falls Park.

The Glasgow comic's quips about children with Down's syndrome and disabled people created a split within the republican community.

Mr Adams said: "I understand the hurt and distress caused by this."

Talks have been held between the festival and a lobby group against Boyle's presence, Feile For All, which included families with children who have Down's syndrome.

The mother of a 12-year-old girl with Down's syndrome has invited Boyle to meet her daughter and said she was disappointed the festival had supported him.

Organisers and the protesters reached a compromise on Wednesday night, with management apologising for any offence and Feile for All agreeing to call off its demonstration.

But John Lundy, whose family had fronted the campaign, said he would "continue to stand with those people who agree that mocking the disabled is wrong".

Boyle's appearance is one of the headline shows of the festival. He is appearing in the marquee in the Falls Park on Friday of next week in a performance that has already sold more than 2,000 tickets.

The criticism followed a routine he performed in Reading in England in 2010 that featured references to children with Down's syndrome.

Mr Adams said the festival had a very good record on inclusivity and promoting disability awareness.

"I wasn't aware until recent days of the offensive remarks which comedian Frankie Boyle had made about people with Down's syndrome.

"Those remarks were reprehensible. I understand and share the deep sense of hurt and outrage caused to people with Down's syndrome and to their families.

"Feile has acknowledged that hurt and has stated publicly that mocking people's disabilities is totally unacceptable."

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