Fleadh decision fury

Nigel Dodds
Nigel Dodds

Unionists have voiced disgust at Public Prosecution Service advice that no criminal charges will be brought against a folk band who played at the Ardoyne Fleadh last month.

The band, called The Druids – who faced widespread criticism after its singer urged British soldiers and their “Orange comrades” to get out of Ireland – will no longer face the prospect of prosecution.

The PSNI had received a number of complaints after the remarks were made during a gig by the Kildare-based band. Both unionist and nationalist politicians criticised what was said on stage at the event. The band claimed the comments were taken out of context.

PSNI Chief Superintendent Nigel Grimshaw said: “Police conducted a full and thorough investigation into complaints made and evidence was presented to the PPS. The PPS has provided pre-prosecutorial advice that no criminal offence has been committed.”

A PPS spokesperson said: “We can confirm that PSNI sought prosecutorial advice from PPS in connection with their investigations into events at Ardoyne Fleadh.

“On the basis of information provided by police, it was not considered that there was evidence of conduct amounting to a criminal offence.”

DUP MP for North Belfast Nigel Dodds said the PSNI and PPS’s actions “beggared belief”.

He also said the importance of the decision should not be underestimated by the authorities.

“This decision by the PSNI and PPS beggars belief. In Scotland prosecutions have been successfully pursued against those who sang the so-called Famine Song yet the republican equivalents have been given the green light by the PSNI and PPS in Northern Ireland. ‘Why?’ is the obvious question.

“The importance of this decision should not be underestimated by the authorities. Every political extremist has been given free rein to tell whatever section of society they like to f- off home, to threaten them, to abuse them, and the PPS and PSNI will look the other way.

“This decision will be challenged by the DUP at the Assembly, on the Policing Board and through any other avenue we can find.”

TUV Belfast councillor Jolene Bunting said the move would “further damage unionist confidence in the police”.

“I am disgusted that the PSNI have told me in response to my complaint on the matter that they will take ‘no action’ following the disgraceful comments at the Ardoyne Fleadh the weekend before last.

“Not that long ago, flag protestors were brought before the courts for making speeches at City Hall which where mild in comparison with the anti-British and anti-Orange hate speech at Ardoyne. Many people will see this as yet more evidence of double standards from the PSNI.

“It seems there is one rule for loyalists but quite another for republicans.

“I am also surprised by the speed of the PSNI investigation. How did they come to these conclusions so quickly?

“It is partially odd given that charges against flag protestors like William Frazer and Jamie Bryson were dragged out over months. Both the PSNI decision and the speed with which it was reached have further damaged unionist confidence in the police.”

Ulster Unionist Policing Board member Ross Hussey claimed the decision was both “indefensible and inexplicable” and called for an explanation from the Director of Public Prosecutions Barra McGrory.

“The evidence is there, on film, for the whole world to see, yet the PPS can’t see anything.

“This was a racist and sectarian rant. What exactly do republicans have to do to have been deemed to have breached the law? Failure to act brings the PPS into disrepute.

“We have recently been plagued with a series of disgraceful attacks, particularly in Belfast, where people have been singled out because of their skin colour or perceived religious identity.

“For the PPS to refuse to take action against someone very publicly telling an entire section of our community to “f*** off back to England where they came from” defies belief. The Druids band do not get to decide who has a right to live in Northern Ireland. It is to their eternal shame that the PPS seems to disagree.”