Police investigate reports of ‘hate speech’ at Ardoyne music festival

Cllr Lee Reynolds.
Cllr Lee Reynolds.

A “hate speech” was made to hundreds of teenage children at a community festival in north Belfast, unionist representatives have claimed.

Several complaints have followed a performance by Irish rebel band The Druids at the Ardoyne Fleadh.

Addressing the crowd ahead of their closing track on Sunday night, a member of the band said it was time the 5,000 British troops still in Northern Ireland, along with “their Orange comrades”, had “all f****d off back to England where they came from”.

The band then played the song ‘Go On Home British Soldiers’ – encouraging the young crowd to sing the chorus which includes the line, “have you got no f*****g homes of your own?”

DUP councillor Lee Reynolds said a video of the incident posted on YouTube shows a “glorification of terrorism” that was “anti-British and anti-Protestant”. The north Belfast representative said his party had submitted a formal complaint to the PSNI.

“The DUP will keep a close eye on this investigation considering the PSNI’s own chequered history around the licensing of this event.

“This type of behaviour should be considered justifiable grounds for the withdrawal of all public funding.”

Julie Anne Corr of the PUP said: “A number of residents living close to the event who contacted me have expressed anger and frustration after being exposed to the frenzy of anti-Protestant hatred stoked up by an Irish rebel band playing at last night’s event.

“The suggestion that the Orange population are round-up onto a bus and sent to England reveals the hate-filled mindset and sectarian attitudes that are being imparted to our young people in places like Ardoyne.”

Cllr Corr said she had asked both the PSNI and the city council to investigate.

TUV councillor Jolene Bunting said she could hear the “pro-IRA songs and chanting” from her own home.

“Not only was this provoking but it was particularly distressing for elderly people and young children. I have contacted Belfast City Council to establish how much ratepayers contributed to the cost of this event,” she said.

Alban Maginness of the SDLP said intolerance should be challenged by everyone.

The SDLP MLA said he was aware of Cllr Reynolds’ calls for public funding to be withdrawn following the on-stage outburst.

“I wasn’t present for the act he refers to, however if there was indeed any instance of intolerant speech then that is wrong. The SDLP strongly condemn republican and loyalist intolerance. It would, however, be incredibly short sighted to end an entire community festival which encompasses art, sport and political debate based on the actions of one group,” he said.

Alliance councillor Nuala McAllister has also criticised the “alleged use of hate speech and the glorification of terrorism” at the partly council-funded event.

“It is extremely disappointing that a group of performers, grown men, would be so reckless as to increase tensions by fuelling sectarian division at a public event, an event that had crowds of young people in attendance. All publicly funded events should make full efforts to ensure they remain free from the divisive hatred seen on display on Sunday night,” she said.

A spokesman for the city council said any complaint would be “fully investigated under the terms and conditions of any grant aid we may have given and a full report will be brought to the appropriate committee in due course”.

A police spokeswoman said: “PSNI have received a complaint and inquiries are ongoing.”

Following the event, festival organisers posted messages on Facebook describing it as a successful community event.

When contacted by the News Letter last night, a spokesman for The Druids replied “no comment”.