Charity Commission to ‘follow up’ on concerns over Feile an Phobail

One of the Wolfe Tone's appearances at Féile an Phobail. Photo: @FeileBelfast TwitterOne of the Wolfe Tone's appearances at Féile an Phobail. Photo: @FeileBelfast Twitter
One of the Wolfe Tone's appearances at Féile an Phobail. Photo: @FeileBelfast Twitter
The Charity Commission (CCNI) has said it is aware of the headlines being generated by the Feile an Phobail finale on Sunday and will do a “follow up” on the issues of concern.

One of the funders, Translink, has also said it will be meeting with the festival’s organisers to “review this situation”.

There has been widespread condemnation of the video footage posted online of thousands of young people singing “up the Ra” during a performance by the Wolfe Tones.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

As the Feile has charitable status, the CCNI is obliged to “ensure the charity is acting as it should be, in accordance with its charitable purposes”.

The commission also said it has the power “to take appropriate steps” if any breaches of the rules are detected.

In a statement, the CCNI said: “Charity registration is a robust, legal process, which considers whether an organisation meets the following criteria in order to be registered as a charity:

• It is an institution, that is, it is an organisation that is an independent body, the hallmarks of which include having control and direction over its governance and resources

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

• It has exclusively charitable purposes, which refers to purposes as detailed within the list of 12 descriptions of purposes in the Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2008

• It is governed by the law of Northern Ireland

The CCNI added: “In a situation where the Commission becomes aware of an issue which, for example, exposes the charity to undue risk or harm, the Commission cannot under the law ‘de-register’ a charity.

“Instead, the Commission has powers to look into the matter and take appropriate steps to resolve the issues raised and ensure the charity is acting as it should be, in accordance with its charitable purposes.

“The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland is aware of the headlines regarding the charity, Féile An Phobail Limited, and can confirm that it is following up with the charity trustees on the issues which have been raised.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The festival organisers have defended the event, saying it attracted a total of !00,000 people and “includes all opinions and provides a platform for many different views, free from censorship of panellists, artists or performers”.

Feile director Kevin Gamble said: “Over 350 events took place, including over 80 debates and discussions, 28 art exhibitions, four comedy nights, a host of literary, sporting and theatre events, a massive carnival parade with over 5,000 people in attendance, a series of family events and four 10,000 capacity outdoor concerts.”

Mr Gamble also said that the festival brought economic benefits and reduced anti-social behaviour, and added: “The Wolfe Tones are one of Ireland’s most famous musical bands, and have played to sold out audiences right across Ireland, Britain, the USA, and indeed the world for the past 58 years.”

However, the TUV’s north Belfast representative Ron McDowell said the Feile director’s statement “merely confirms that the concerns raised about the events over the weekend were justified”.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Mr McDowell said: “Far from there being an apology for the gross offence caused by the pro-terrorist and racist chanting at the event, organisers have doubled down defending the Wolfe Tones because they are popular”.

Mr McDowell also said that funders, both private and public, “need to withdraw from this event as do political and media figures who give the festival a veneer of respectability”.

On Monday, one of the core backers of the Feile told the News Letter that unless organisers live up to their responsibility to “promote good relations” their funding could be pulled.

Tourism Northern Ireland has said it was “investigating” the events ask its “funding offers are made on the basis of due regard for good relations.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

On Tuesday, a Translink spokeswoman said the company “provides services for the whole community irrespective of historical or cultural diversity”.

She added: “As part of Translink’s support of Féile An Phobail we sponsored the recent Teddy Bears Picnic family event and hosted Music on Metro and Gigs on Glider activity, promoting wider use of public transport as a sustainable and cost-effective travel option.

“We will be seeking a meeting with the organisers to review this situation.”