3 August 2015
Frankie Boyle so vile that he even managed to split Sinn Fein
Comedian Frankie Boyle is to perform at Féile an Phobail: West Belfast Festival on August 7
I was rather cheered by the controversy last week about the Glaswegian comedian Frankie Boyle and his forthcoming appearance at Feile an Phobail. It has to be some kind of progress that even a flicker of public dissent has been allowed among the ranks of Sinn Fein.
And it was amusing to see people who have made their careers protesting, having in turn to satisfy angry people with banners, among them the hitherto faithful Tom Hartley - once a Sinn Fein Mayor of Belfast and, indeed, a founder of the festival.
Hartley, who has a brother with Down's syndrome, was protesting with other members of Feile for All about the booking of Boyle, who famously makes vile jokes about children with that condition as well as about the afflicted in general.
Still, Hartley is very loyal, so it was no surprise that ultimately he obediently sided with those in the group who agreed last Wednesday to call off the demonstration after a meeting with organisers.
According to John Lundy, who has a daughter with Down's and who has not caved in, they were told that the show could not be cancelled because Boyle was popular, ticket sales were high and the festival might collapse if it had to pay the money back.
You can see why he is accusing the Feile festival of moral bankruptcy.
Gerry Adams has been trying to calm things down with unctuous drivel about the festival's good record on inclusivity, the promotion of disability awareness and how he understands and shares "the deep sense of hurt and outrage caused to people with Down's syndrome and to their families".
If you find Frankie Boyle's humour offensive, it's simple... just don't buy a ticket
Apparently he hadn't known that Boyle had mocked the condition.
Adams must lead a very sheltered life. Boyle is a notoriously cruel comedian who frequently causes great offence.
Here, for Gerry Adams' benefit, is a sample of the kind of joke the Féile star is famous for.
First, one about Margaret Thatcher, which republicans might well regard as edgy and politically right-on: "The government are considering spending £3m on a state funeral for Margaret Thatcher when she dies. For £3m they could buy everyone in Scotland a shovel, and we'll dig a hole deep enough to deliver her to Satan ourselves."
So possibly was this: "The only time I want to see Geri Halliwell draped with the Union Jack is as a casualty of war."
But what about those that brutally mock women's appearance? "Venus Williams has brought something different to the women's game - male genitalia."
"I wish the Queen had died the night before the Royal Jubilee - I wish she'd just f***ing died. But they wouldn't have been able to tell us that she'd died. They would have had to hollow out her body and get that guy who plays Gollum to wear it."
"I worry that Rebecca Adlington will have an unfair advantage in the swimming by possessing a dolphin's face."
The only time I saw Boyle on television, on Mock the Week, I found him so crude and unfunny that I've always avoided him since, though of course I've read about him.
I found completely loathsome his joke about eight-year-old Harvey, the son of Katie Price, aka Jordan. Price is vulgar and avaricious, but she has been an utterly devoted mother to a badly handicapped child, who did not deserve this: "Apparently Jordan and Peter Andre are fighting each other over custody of Harvey. Well, eventually one of them'll lose and have to keep him."
Is it topped by this? "Jimmy Savile did an incredible amount of charity work towards the end of his life, just to be sure he could shag Madeleine McCann in heaven."
A generation of comedians has been driven off the airwaves because of being seen as politically incorrect. To me they seemed harmless compared to Boyle, who I think is a misanthrope - someone who hates mankind.
Still, I favour free speech so I think he should be allowed to appear at the festival. I'm glad, though, that there will be a few people outside the venue reminding us of the love and happiness that people with Down's syndrome bring to the world.
Which is more than can be said for Frankie Boyle.
Ruth Dudley Edwards