The DUP have made a complaint to the Police Ombudsman “after a PSNI oral and written submission to Belfast City Council refused to define pro-IRA songs and chants at Ardoyne Fleadh concerts as sectarian”.
DUP group leader and Oldpark councillor, Lee Reynolds, revealed the move after the decision was taken at the council’s Licensing Committee on Wednesday to approve an application for the Ardoyne Fleadh to take place from July 26-29 at Holy Cross Boys playing fields. The application was made by Ardoyne Fleadh Committee.
A spokeswoman from Belfast City Council said they had received 18 objections to the application.
Last night, Cllr Reynolds said: “DUP councillors were aghast when they received the PSNI report. We took the opportunity to question PSNI officers at the committee hoping for the situation to be clarified but the officers refused to define them [the songs] as sectarian. They went so far as to say such events created a ‘feel-good factor’. This is utterly unacceptable.”
Cllr Reynolds said those political parties who voted in favour of “a concert imbued with sectarianism and hate” will in turn “be lobbying the Parades Commission for a series of restrictions about all aspects of upcoming parades”.
Mr Reynolds, who lives in north Belfast, said “the lyrics of pro-IRA songs are blasted in the windows of my house during the event, whether I like it or not”.
He said one of the bands listed to perform sings songs “with deeply sectarian lyrics”.
“Last year there were more than 100 complaints about the noise, so this year when they applied for a licence for the concert, we objected to it.
“But we did not expect what we received in the police reports. They did not recognise the music as being sectarian or offensive.
“But the Ardoyne Fleadh does not play to an exclusively republican audience, they are playing to an audience over a PA system at an outdoor concert that can he heard as far away as west Belfast.
“They have a concert on the Saturday night and then the Irish night on the Sunday when the noise is exceptional. I mean, I don’t have to go to the event to hear it – it’s available to me in my living room.”
When given details of Cllr Reynolds comments, a PSNI spokesman said: “Police are aware that a complaint has been made to the Police Ombudsman’s Office where the matter will be investigated fully and independently. As with all PONI inquiries, police intend to fully cooperate with their investigation.”
Meanwhile, a spokesman from Ardoyne Fleadh, Paul McCusker, defended the festival, saying: “It is music from our tradition and it is taking place in our area. We are not anywhere near any interfaces. The music happens from a big open area in the centre of Ardoyne. We had two concerts last year and most of our complaints came in on the Sunday night, the Irish traditional night. The loudness of the music never seems to be a problem on the other music night.”
He added: “We welcome music from other cultures as well. We had a couple of thousand last year and it was great for the area and well appreciated.”