Young unionists brand pro-IRA chanting at Feile festival as 'dystopian and destructive'

The Wolfe Tones on stage at the Feile an Phobail festival. Photo: Wolfe Tones official Twitter page
The Wolfe Tones on stage at the Feile an Phobail festival. Photo: Wolfe Tones official Twitter page

Unionist Youth Network (UYN), which was set up in June, said: “The chanting of ‘up the ra’ at the Feile, only serves to perpetuate the hate and abuse that young unionists receive, further increasing the stigma.

"This creates a toxic-majoritarian attitude, especially towards young unionists attempting to voice their opinion.”

The festival in west Belfast closed on Sunday night with the annual controversy of the Wolfe Tones finishing their set with ‘Celtic Symphony’ which includes the lyrics ‘ooh ah up the 'ra’. Earlier in the day Shebeen had also led the crowd in pro-IRA chants.

Matthew Shanks, one of the group’s founders, said: “I was disappointed to see this nonsense occur again, but ultimately not surprised.

“The deliberate historical revisionism carried out by some is leading to young people thinking this sort of behaviour is acceptable – it is not.”

He said “dystopian and destructive” summed up this part of the Feile festival.

Jay Basra, who is chair of the group giving young unionists a voice, said: “This sectarian chanting once again ignores the pain and suffering inflicted on innocent men, women and children by the IRA.

“This must be condemned by all if we want to make real progress in Northern Ireland and see NI flourish into what It could become.”

Jack Steele, UYN secretary, said: “The callous display of terrorist glorification serves as a reminder that the wounds are still raw for many people who suffered during the Troubles.

“If Northern Ireland is to prosper, we need these sectarian acts to cease and full condemnation to be issued.”

Feile an Phobail director Kevin Gamble said a record 120,000 people had attended events at this year’s festival.

He added: “This year, representatives from all communities were welcomed to Feile to have their voice heard, both as spectators and participants.”

As yet none of the three main funders – Belfast City Council, the Arts Council NI and Tourism – have given any indication that the plan to withdraw financial support from Feile an Phobail.