Sinn Fein, SDLP Undermining An Feile?

First of all an apology to Gaelic speakers. I am blogging from the ipad and have not yet mastered the “fada” (accent marks) and apologies if there are any spelling errors.

An Feile an Phobail…the Peoples Festival, the largest Arts Festival “in these islands”? Certainly the largest politically correct festival…it is 25 years this year.
Actually I am not certain that is correct. The Festival has its roots in the annual anti-internment rallies which took place in the years after August 1971 when it was almost inevitable that violence and deaths would occur. There would …at best…be self-inflicted nihilistic violence on the Falls Road.
Certainly there were attempts to turn that into something constructive.
I remember the Wolfe Tones in concert at St Thomas’ School and I recall being “coerced” by a Catholic priest from Sunderland into playing in a football match at St Aidans. That was about 1974.

Perhaps An Feile 1988-2013 ..An Feile 25 reflects “official” status.
But it does tend to airbrush out earlier efforts.
For anyone like myself trying to persuade American friends to visit Belfast, then mid July to mid August is ideal.
We can begin our Tour with the Twelfth and being equally repulsed and amused by the Orange Order. The discerning visitor can take in the “summer school” at QUB School of Irish Studies…three weeks of listening to letsgetalongerism for £1500 (with accomodation) followed by my nightly debunking of al that was said.
And then…an Feile….West Belfast at its best. MY West Belfast. MY Falls Road. “Right On” politically correct debates, exhibitions, music, comedy….my annual ration of culture and cupan tae agus ceapaire (tea and a sandwich) at An Culturlann.

Of course there have always been accusations that An Feile was a Provo Festival. Indeed Sinn Fein always denied it. And An Feiles credibility was enhanced when it was run by a former international tennis player from County Mayo….and then Caitriona Ruane joined Sinn Fein and became Minister for Education and she is still a MLA at Stormont.
I looked on that…not as evidence of a “Provo Front” but rather as evidence of Sinn Fein expanding its membership.

Yet…yesterday An Feile 2013 was launched at Conway Mill. And as I looked for promotional material to post on Facebook as an appetiser for my American friends, I found a clip of the launch on You Tube.
It is slightly uncomfortable viewing. It is of course produced by “Sinn Fein TV” and features speeches and sound bites from among others …Mairtin O’ Muilleoir, Paul Maskey MP, Gerry Adams TD, Caral Ni Chuilin MLA…Other Sinn Fein figures including former MEP Bairbre de Brun were prominent in the audience. Danny Morrison is the Director of An Feile.
Some points.
Mairtin is Mayor of Belfast and of course he is entitled to be there. Indeed he has a DUTY to be there. And that Chain of Office lends a degree of credibility.
Caral is Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure. She has a duty to be there.
Paul is MP for West Belfast. Duty.
Gerry Adams is TD for Louth and er…..well he is TD for Louth.

It WAS of course Sinn Fein TV. But I did not catch sight of any SDLP people. Where any invited? With two of the ten council seats in West Belfast, surely the councillors were invited to the launch. Surely the SDLP MLA on the Culture, Arts, Leisure Committee was invited.
But there was the uncomfortable feeling that having spent far too long denying POLITICAL involvement in An Feile, SF was happily embracing the notion that their fingerprints were all over it.
The “flagship” event of An Feile is “Belfast Talks Back”, a panel discussion and apparently this year it has a stellar line up of “Sinn Fein and DUP …and politicians from other parties” Would that include SDLP?
Parity of Esteem in Norn Iron context. But NOT in a West Belfast context.
Is it about marginalising SDLP?
The SDLP will actually be hosting an event at An Feile this year. I am not entirely sure whether SDLP is asserting itself (good) or marginalising itself (bad). The event will be about “Victims and Reconciliation”. At this point, I dont feel that I can talk about the membership of the panel…but it is uncomfortably unbalanced.

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34 Responses to Sinn Fein, SDLP Undermining An Feile?

  1. factual says:

    It’s best if arts festivals aren’t political, e.g. Galways one or Edinburgh’s. Both of which have proper art content.

    Does a Q&A panel discussion with politicans count as “art” in Belfast?

  2. Fear Feirsteach says:

    Féile an Phobail – only one article in Irish.

  3. bangordub says:

    Good to see Factual is back!
    And my comments seem to be working again

  4. Political Tourist says:

    Personally i preferred the bonfires.
    Maybe it an age thing.
    The provos pulled the festival idea out of the hat whilst still fighting an armed campaign.
    Carlsberg don’t do political somersaults but…….

  5. Pingback: The Would-Be Revolution Devours Its Children | An Sionnach Fionn

  6. Ciaran says:

    SDLP got 13% of the vote in the last west Belfast election, hardly a major player in the west!

    • Are you suggesting that West Belfast is a one-party state?
      Six MLAs …five Sinn Fein, one SDLP.
      Ten councillors…eight Sinn Fein, two SDLP (a gain from Sinn Fein).
      SDLP remain the second biggest player in West Belfast. …and to follow your bizarre logic SF should only talk to itself in West Belfast.
      Of course you might say….because youre clearly an idiot….that the West Belfast is more six county based. but then youre too stupid to realise that would mean you accepting that SF (second largest vote share) have 28% and SDLP (third) are on 14%.
      Perhaps your own twisted notion of shared future for West Belfast is just SF and some loyalist ex-prisoners. Im inclined to think SDLP did more for the people of West Belfast (including the relatives of IRA people) than loyalist ex-prisoners.
      Any reasonable person…I dont suppose you are one…might conclude that An Feile are perhaps helping Sinn Fein to achieve one party domination in West Belfast.
      But then there is no connexion between Sinn Fein and An Feile. Its not as if its Director was previously the Chief Press Officer of Sinn Fein….oh now that I think about it …he is.

  7. Ciaran says:

    Your response is to be personally abusive towards me? Merely pointing out that the SDLP are a bit-part player in west Belfast. That’s obviously a factual statement when you look at election results. Probably shows how little input the SDLP have within the constituency. Does Alex Attwood even live in West Belfast?

    • Your statement that SDLP is a bit player in West Belfast based on 13% of the vote share…the second. And the only alternative to nationalists there.
      Or maybe you just dont think that the alternative nationalist voice be heard there.
      As to thinking that Im abusing you…tell ya what…just dont post here.
      Do ME A favour.
      Do YOURSELF a favour.

  8. factual says:

    Gerry Adams has pointed out that party support among the nationalist community is to a certain extent a generational thing. Gerry Adams says that when he is out campaigning more often than not the senior generation coming to the door might say “I was a John Hume man, so vote SDLP” and the next generation would pop their head round the door and say “I am a Sinn Féin supporter”.

    I’ve also heard it cited that SF have more workers on the ground in West Belfast.

  9. James M says:

    Surely that is a panel made for FJH?

    • Hmmmm….
      Now lets see.
      I have been blogging about Conflict Resolution for years.
      I have lectured on Conflict Resolution in Texas .
      And I am sympathetic to the SDLP.
      And might even be considered a potential asset.
      Would the SDLP want someone like me on their Panel?

  10. factual says:

    FJH why don’t you hold a fringe event? FJHblog talks back. A pan-natonalist debate: “Whither Nationalism”? Invite a SDLP, a SF, a Eirigi, Jude Collins, and Brian Feeney.

    Publicise it using flyers and facebook; similar to the fringe events at the Edinburgh festival that are not on the official programme.

  11. kalista63 says:

    I remember moving from Glengormley to the Falls (by expulsion) in ’75 just prior to the internment commemorations. What an awful night was the 8th in to the 9th, so akin to the msery of the 11th night that we had left behind. As with successive generation ot 2 in my paternal line, we had done our bit for the cause and just wanted peace from the RUC escorted attacks by loyalists.

    What we got was a bunch of loons knocking our front door and TELLING us to turn our lights off. A;lthought mosy of the activity was down in Rodney, they came up to us at the top of St. James’ to antagonise people like us, who’s son was just released from the Kesh and families who had suffered at the hands of security forces and loyalists.

    Being someone who was cocooned by Marvel Comics, Led Zeppelin and being sent off to Canada for weeks, I can’t remember exactly when people wised up but I do remember that it was welcomed

    Imitation is the best form of insanity and I’m glad republicans left the fascination with fire to unionists/loyalists, something which exemplifies the progressive attitude of one community against the pitiful, regressive (pleasantly depleting) element of the other one.

    Now, what date is the Ladyboys of Tandragee on?

  12. factual says:

    FJHI was just talking over this issue the other day with someone I know (who has lived in the six counties) and he said that if SDLP people are unhappy that SF get too much promotion in this event, then SDLP could run a festival of their own in say Derry, South Belfast, or South Down, and promote their own heritage and history. It doesn’t have to be a big thing to begin with.

    • factual says:

      The guy who suggested this thought that rather than complain and say “its not fair” etc., it is better for SDLP to be proactive and set up a festival itself about itself. (He lived for about one year in the six counties, but is now back in Dublin, as he really did not like it up there). Perhaps the SDLP tends to look over its shoulder at SF too much and try to “hold on to SF’s apron strings” rather than to do things for itself, it needs to strike a distinct chord, differentiate. Setting up your own festival might be better – in all kinds of ways – rather than hoping for a few more crumbs at SF’s table. …. if you see what I mean.

      • No I dont know what you mean.
        but neither do you.

      • factual says:

        Well from what I understand you often state that the SDLP don’t do enough to promote its own history and traditions, and so it struck me that running its own festival would place it in a better position to do that than being junior partner in this festival. The festival could be in Belfast if that was felt the best place though Derry could perhaps benefit from such a festival too. Just putting the thought out there.

      • I dont think I believe in putting SDLP in a ghetto.

    • Well the person you were to was tacitly accepting that An Feile IS in effect an event in the control of Sinn Fein and their agents.
      And what does his statement tell you.
      That SDLP should get to hell out of West Belfast and go back to their own areas…eg Derry.
      The effect of NOT engaging with Sinn Fein on “their turf” would be for SDLP to condemn themselves to being the minority nationalist party for ever.
      Is that Sinn Fein working for Democracy?
      no doubt you saw thru this shameful undemocratic statement and told the person you were talking to that you were disgusted by his attiitude.

  13. patsy says:

    don’t be so tetchy!!! have you enjoyed the festival or not? I think its BRILLIANT…..why can’t you just congratulate those responsible for such a great achievement……..

    • At 61….you will appreciate that much of the music was hardly to my taste.
      Patrick Kielty…I wouldnt walk down the street to see.
      Enjoyment is hardly the word to describe the Victims Event. I blogged about it.
      The Amnesty Debate about which I blogged was journalists congratulating themselves and with Allison Morris there, opportunity for serious debate and/or fireworks.
      It did amuse me that one of the Festival organisers listed “political events” that might interest the audience but forgot the SDLP event.
      I DID ENJOY that this was a Republican Nationalist and Civil Rights event which showcases West Be,fast.
      Less than thrilled that it had Sinn Fein fingerprints all over it.
      Pleased that the SDLP had elbowed its way in.
      Not exactly surprised that SDLP not invited to the flagship Talks Back event.
      Thought the event on the Churches at St Oliver Plunketts was excellent but not entirely helped by too many interventions from self proclaimed ex-combatant athiests.
      The Art events…well I leave that to Renaissance Man Mairtin O’ Muiiloeir. He seemed to have ,left his critical faculties at home.
      Proud…not too strong a word…that the people of West Belfast are anti-imperialist and anti-racist.
      proud that Im from a culture which values Human Dignity.
      Shocked and Disgusted at the treatment suffered by Maortin O’Muilleoir at the Woodvale Park

      and amused that the Mayor tweeted every minute of his day which was lovingly re-tweeted by his Sinn Fein coleagues, camp followers and the artsy crowd…and the policemen from all over the world.
      And inspired…. Took photographs.

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