UK

Frankie Boyle Down's Syndrome Row As Protesters Demand He Is Axed From Belfast Festival

28/07/2015 10:24 BST | Updated 28/07/2015 14:59 BST

There are mounting calls for Frankie Boyle to be axed as the headline act of an upcoming Belfast festival.

Feile an Phobail is an annual community arts event which was established as a response to the conflict in Northern Ireland.

Literature on its website states: “Its purpose was to celebrate the positive side of the community, its creativity, its energy, its passion for the arts, and for sport.”

frankie boyle

Frankie Boyle is set to perform at Feile an Phobail on 7 August

But there has been a backlash against Boyle’s show on 7 August, stemming from jokes the controversial comic made about Down’s Syndrome in 2010.

SEE ALSO: Frankie Boyle's Labour Party Column In The Guardian Has Everyone Agreeing With Him (Again)

Tom Hartley, the founder of the festival, has urged organisers to scrap Boyle as a headline act.

Hartley is a former Lord Mayor of Belfast and Sinn Fein councillor, whose brother has Down’s Syndrome.

He told the Belfast Telegraph: "I do think, for me, it poses an ethical question for how Feile an Phobail sees itself.

"Feile an Phobail emerged from a community with a view of itself. It is a difficult one (the booking of Boyle), there is a fine line between freedom of speech and the rights of those with disabilities and Down's syndrome.

"Would, for instance, you invite a comedian that was homophobic, a comedian that was racist? I don't think so. I think Feile will sort this out, they are people with an ethical view of the world."

Boyle himself has not commented on the storm, though last week he tweeted: “I’m doing a gig in Belfast. It’s going to be a fucking belter too.”

The complaints relate to a stand-up show Boyle performed in Reading in 2010 in which he mocked people with Down’s Syndrome for their haircuts, clothes and voices.

Boyle found himself challenged by audience member Sharon Smith – who said she was upset by the routine because she has a five-year-old daughter with the condition.

Boyle and Smith spoke, with Boyle apparently then conlcuding “It was the most excruciating moment of my career,” the Guardian reports.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams has also become embroiled in the matter.

gerry adams

Gerry Adams has commented on the matter

In comments reported by the BBC, Adams said: “I don’t know myself that he had made whatever offensive remark he made about people with Down’s Syndrome and of course, that’s reprehensible.

“I understand exactly why the family members of citizens with Down’s Syndrome have been annoyed about that, but, you know, Feile an Phobail has a very, very, very good record of inclusivity.”

Organisers for the festival have insisted Boyle’s show will go ahead and that more than 2,000 tickets have been sold.

Huffington Post UK has contacted Boyle’s representatives for comment.