Frankie Boyle: Belfast festival organisers apologise for any 'hurt and offence' caused by booking comedian

Disability campaigners were calling for Boyle's gig to be axed over 'Down’s syndrome joke'

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The organisers of a community festival in Belfast have said they are “deeply sorry” for any offence caused by the booking of Frankie Boyle.

The Féile an Phobail festival was hit by protests from disability campaigners after the booking for the annual community festival was announced. The organisers said Boyle’s 7 August show was the fastest selling performance it had ever organised.

Féile for Everyone, the group opposed to the controversial comedian’s performance, said it was unacceptable to have Boyle at Féile an Phobail because of jokes he reportedly made about the way people with Down’s syndrome speak during a stand-up show in 2010.

Campaigners held a demonstration outside of the Feile offices calling for Boyle to be axed from the line-up and a meeting was called to address their concerns earlier this week.

Tom Hartley, one of the founding members of Féile an Phobail, also criticised the decision to book Boyle. Mr Hartley, a former Lord Mayor of Belfast and Sinn Fein councillor, told the Belfast Telegraph that having Boyle posed an ethical question for the festival. However, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams defended their right to invite Boyle to perform.

The organisers released a statement after the meeting on Wednesday, where they said they "had in no way set out to come into conflict with any section of the community and are deeply sorry for any hurt or offence that has been caused".

"Féile an Phobail finds the mocking of the disabled totally unacceptable,” the statement went on.

"Both parties are acutely aware of the difficulties that the event has created, and are committed to working together in future to ensure that Féile an Phobail remains fully inclusive and can be enjoyed in its fullest by all sections of the community.”

Féile for Everyone said it remained “firmly opposed” to Boyle’s presence at the festival, but felt it had run an extremely successful campaign”. The group said it was looking forward to working with Féile an Phobail in the future.

The group’s founder John Lundy told The Guardian he would continue with his own opposition to Boyle’s gig separately from Féile for Everyone.

The Independent has contacted Boyle’s representatives for comment.