Big summer gigs are fundraising vehicles for abortion campaigns

The Workers' Beer Co will be at concerts featuring (clockwise from left) Snow Patrol, Metallica, Noel Gallagher and Mumford and Sons
The Workers' Beer Co will be at concerts featuring (clockwise from left) Snow Patrol, Metallica, Noel Gallagher and Mumford and Sons
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Tens of thousands of concert-goers have no option but to buy beer from an outfit which is using the events to fund abortion campaigns.

The Workers’ Beer Co is the sole supplier of booze to eight huge music dates in June and July, and its bars will be staffed by activists from Alliance for Choice and the Abortion Rights Campaign.

Slane Castle

Slane Castle

The concerts in question are: Snow Patrol (June 7, Malahide), Metallica (June 8, Slane), Mumford and Sons (June 14 and 15, Malahide), Noel Gallagher (June 16, Malahide), George Ezra (June 21, Malahide), Lana Del Rey (June 22, Malahide), and the Longitude festival (Marlay Park, July 5-7).

Together, they are set to draw crowds well into six figures from across the island of Ireland.

Pro-life campaign group Both Lives Matter noted that since the Workers’ Beer Co is the sole drink supplier, it leaves gig-goers who want a beer “no choice other than to be ‘pro-choice’”.

It also questioned whether concert-goers are aware the gigs are being used as a means to finance these campaign groups.Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the Workers’ Beer Co stressed that money raised will be used for a raft of causes, not just abortion pressure groups.

HOW DOES THE FUNDRAISING WORK?

Workers’ Beer Co (which is owned by London-based trade unionists) runs bars at gigs across the British Isles, which are staffed by volunteers from various activist groups.

Instead of earning money for themselves, the minimum hourly wage which the bar volunteers would be paid instead goes to their activist groups (something the Workers’ Beer Co classes as a “donation”).

Alliance for Choice is a Belfast-based group which describes itself as campaigning “for abortion rights in Northern Ireland as we believe in bodily autonomy for women, trans men and non-binary people”.

It is the “sister organisation” of the Abortion Rights Campaign, which is largely Republic-centred (see below).

Denise Walker, who is on the Irish committee of the Workers Beer Co, told the News Letter Alliance for Choice will not be at every gig, but Abortion Rights Campaign will.

She said: “We’ve been going over 30 years. We’ve ploughed millions of funds back into very worthwhile campaigning groups. This just happens to be another cause that we’re involved in – not by any stretch of the imagination the only cause.”

The issue of abortions in Ireland had “for too long been hushed”, and when she was growing up “it was very much the pro-life agenda that was thrown at me”.

She also said “if people decide to boycott us, then that’s their choice”.

However, no meaningful boycott is really possible for ticketholders.

Firstly, there are no other bars to buy from.

And secondly, even if pro-life gig-goers went tee-total in protest, it is understood the activist groups are funded based on the number of volunteers working at the bars alone, not on beer volume sold.

Dawn McAvoy, an advocate in anti-abortion group Both Lives Matter, said: “This year if you want a drink, there is no choice other than to be ‘pro-choice’.

“We all like to choose which charity or campaign our money goes to, as not every cause is equal. Perhaps it’s time for a bit more choice.

“So maybe next year we will apply [to volunteer with the Workers Beer Co] – we’d like to think that our application would have as much chance as anyone else’s!”

‘WE HAVE NEVER HAD ANY PUSH-BACK’

The Abortion Rights Campaign has been involved with Workers Beer Co in previous years, but this is the first year that Alliance for Choice has been involved.

Alliance for Choice did not respond to requests for comment.

However, the Abortion Rights Campaign – which campaigned heavily for ‘repeal’ in last year’s abortion referendum in the Republic – did.

Its spokesperson Linda Kavanagh said it will have between 40 and 90 people working at each gig. She was not sure how much cash will be raised.

She said they had worked wiht the Workers’ Beer Co for perhaps five years, adding: “We’ve never found it divisive. It’s just been a wonderful fundraising model for us.

“It’s never been an issue to be honest. People ask the volunteers when they’re getting served, and it’s very positive feedback that we get.”

She said the idea that people would not know where money raised at the events is going was “reaching”.

“We have it all over our social media and our website, it’s not a secret,” she said.

“It’s just not really an issue. We’re quite transparent about the money and where it’s coming from.

“We found it just unbelievable. We really have never gotten any push-back.”

Alliance for Choice, when seeking to recruit volunteers, said bar workers will “get free entry to the events, parking, camping where available and all meals plus of course free beers after your shift... we will cover travel expenses. So have fun and raise funds – whats not to love!”

In the abortion referendum, 33.6% opposed repealing a clause in the constitution to allow terminations.

Gig promoter MCD did not offer any comment at time of writing. It does not select the causes the beer company funds in any case.

WHO ELSE DOES WORKERS’ BEER CO FUND?:

Other groups which are fundraising with the Workers’ Beer Co are Comhlamh (Dublin-based international aid group), the Young Greens (Green Party youth wing), the Hope Foundation (works with street children in Calcutta), SUAS (Dublin-based literacy charity), Latin American Solidarity Centre, Our Table (asylum seeker campaign group in Dublin), Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Skyrene Tara Youth (a community football club), plus the following union groups: GMB, Unite Youth, and USI.

Denise Walker, a senior organiser with the GMB union, said there will be no campaign paraphernalia or collection tins at the bars, and bar workers will be uniformed.

Among the other members on the Workers’ Beer Co’s Irish committee are two SDLP figures – South Belfast MLA Claire Hanna, and south Belfast councillor Donal Lyons.