Controversial comedian Frankie Boyle defied his critics by forcefully defending his jokes about disabled children, during a gig at the West Belfast Festival.
Organisers had provoked an extended barrage of criticism for booking the performer, but stood firm and faced down calls by disabled support groups and parents to cancel his appearance.
However, on Friday night Boyle defended his jokes about disabled children which had so offended parents – and slammed Belfast media outlets which criticised him.
But despite expectations there were no protests against his appearance, and social media seemed to be flooded purely by fans who ensured the event was a sell-out – and closed with a standing ovation.
The comedian got huge cheers when he opened his show by discussing the campaign against him and related press coverage.
“It’s a whimsical joke that’s completely not disabilist in any way. I completely stand by it and if you do not think so you can get out,” he said.
He added that disabled people were not vulnerable, but rather “oppressed by the Government”.
And he claimed to have written the joke in conjunction with a friend who had brittle bone disease.
The comedian argued that those offended by him should not listen to his jokes.
“When Ben & Jerry launch a new ice cream they do not say to them ‘what about all the people who do not like ice cream, what about the people who think it’s a bit cold’,” he said.
Opposition to the show has been based on remarks Boyle made during a live show in 2010 about Down’s syndrome.
The mother of a girl with the condition said he had “made fun of the way people with Down’s syndrome speak” and “made a number of references to people with Down’s syndrome dying early”.
However, there seemed to be only praise for the comedian on Twitter last night.
Chris McErlain said Boyle’s performance had been “immense” before adding: “My cheeks are sore from laughing!”
The only voice of moderation, calling themselves ‘Quoink’, was slightly cynical, however. “I’m sure Frankie Boyle has ramped up the offendometer to 11 tonight. Got to feed the outrage beast when its belly is rumbling,” they tweeted.
But James Burns found the performer “insightful, witty and just brilliant”, while Helen Farley added: “My face hurts from laughing.”
Neil Wilson felt there was one omission from those targeted by the comedian’s acid tongue, however. “Why’s he not making jokes about the Shinners?” he asked.
Organisers said they were “deeply sorry for any hurt or offence that has been caused” by the booking and said they would put in place measures “to avoid a situation like this arising in the future”.
On Monday, they said they had a “frank and useful meeting” with protestors but that the gig would go ahead. They added they “appreciate that there has been a deep sense of hurt caused with the booking”.