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15th Aug 2023

Wolfe Tones gig turned Belfast Féile into ‘terror fest’, claims MLA

Stephen Porzio

“Once more the West Belfast Festival degenerated into a terror fest with its ‘Up the Ra’ finale.”

A performance by The Wolfe Tones on the closing night of the Belfast festival Féile an Phobail at the weekend is generating controversy in Northern Ireland.

On Sunday night, the band played their song ‘Celtic Symphony’ – a trick written as a tribute to Celtic Football Club – which features the lyrics: “Ooh, ahh, up the RA”.

In footage taken at the Féile an Phobail, many in attendance at The Wolfe Tones performance can be heard singing along with these lyrics – sparking condemnation from Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) leader Jim Allister, who described the singing as a “deliberate insult to IRA victims”.

Wolfe Tones gig turned Belfast Féile into ‘terror fest’, claims MLA

Taking to social media with a statement titled: “Repulsive Provo lyrics again turn West Belfast Festival into a terror fest,” the MLA slammed the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland – which regulates the Féile – for not taking action against similar singing during previous iterations of the event.

Allister wrote:

“Once more the West Belfast Festival degenerated into a Terror Fest with its ‘Up the Ra’ finale.

“The fact that shamefully the Charity Commission failed to act against such glorification of terror under the auspices of an organisation it continues to accept as a bona fide charity, guaranteed this deliberate insult to IRA victims.

“When the Charity Commission by its inaction sanctions such, rest assured there will be plenty of IRA acolytes ready to pay homage to the murdering Provos as a new generation is indoctrinated into the bloodthirsty cult of worshipping at the shrine of IRA terror.

“The fact that this festival continues to be lavishly funded from the public purse adds to the hurt and insult endured by the victims of terrorism.”

Meanwhile, Gary Murray – whose teenage sister was killed in the Shankill Road bombing in 1993 – has also hit out against the event.

As reported in the Belfast Telegraph, he said: “This was not only via the Wolfe Tones, but also a band known as Shebeen who expressly sang a number of songs celebrating the IRA murder of British soldiers and other innocent victims.

“This, as with every year, has caused untold hurt and upset to victims of the IRA.

“The actions of the west Belfast festival are predictable, however the real issue here is that they were given the green light for these events by the Charity Commission.”

Having already lodged an official grievance with the Charity Commission and the PSNI after last year’s version of the event, Murray also questioned why the charity watchdog allowed it to happen again.

In a statement to the Belfast Telegraph, a Charity Commission spokesperson wrote:

“One of the concerned parties requested that the commission review its decision not to take regulatory action under its internal decision review process. The charity was advised of this request.

“The concerned party also requested that a specific question is referred to the Charity Tribunal under para. 1 of Schedule 4 to the Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2008. The concerned party has been advised that this request is currently being considered by the commission.”

The Charity Commission spokesperson also said that, while these requests are under consideration, it would be inappropriate to comment any further.

Meanwhile, The Wolfe Tones’ frontman has rejected criticism of his band’s set, telling Newstalk’s The Hard Shoulder: “They’re criticising one song out of a whole evening of two and a half hours.

“We don’t encourage chanting, it’s not chanting, but the crowd sing along with every song that we sing… to pick out one song out of two and a half hours you don’t agree with.

“You’ve got to understand that the IRA were seen by the Nationalist community as defenders of their communities when Unionist violence was burning people out of streets.”

Main image via Twitter/FeileBelfast