Category: Archive

Knee-capping tongue lashing

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Andrew Bushe

DUBLIN — Sinead O’Connor has promised to stage a concert at her own expense in Belfast later this year after withdrawing from a West Belfast festival following what she claimed there were attempts to censor her planned condemnation of punishment beatings.

Now styling herself Mother Bernadette Mary following her Tridentine ordination, she accused the organizers of Feile an Phobail of wanting a puppet and a mouthpiece and not an artist for the Aug. 6 gig.

The 32-year-old singer, who has previously performed at events supporting British withdrawal from Northern Ireland, planned to invite an 8-year-old victim of a punishment beating onto the stage.

Festival Director Catriona Ruane denied there had been any attempt to censor the star and claimed the organizers just wanted to advise her that the issue was a complex one.

On RTE, O’Connor quoted a letter from Danny Morrison to a mutual friend suggesting that if she brought up the issue it would be a disaster. Morrison, who is an elected member on the Feile management committee, had originally approached her about performing.

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She said the letter stated that for her to bring up punishment beatings “would be neither helpful to the festival organizers nor to Sinead’s reputation.”

“I am not willing to be used as a puppet or a poster girl for the republican movement,” O’Connor said. “It seems to me they don’t want an artist, they want a puppet. There are no excuses for punishment beatings, there are no excuses for violence.”

The attitude seemed to be patronizing about her as an artist and questioning “how a silly pop star can have a brain.”

She said the whole point of being a protest singer was to make protests. “The whole point of rock and roll is to challenge the established dogma.”

Ruane said the week-long festival was the biggest community event of its kind in Europe and was one of the few in Ireland that had political discussion and debate as a major part of its program.

She said organizers later discovered that O’Connor planned to bring members of the FAIT anti-intimidation group to her performance. People were concerned and the matter was brought up at a committee meeting and they sent a letter to her advising it would “not be a good idea” to bring people up on stage and to reconsider.

“What we as a festival do not want is a concert with one set of victims on stage and another in the audience,” Ruane said.

Ruane added that the singer was still welcome., and that all the organizers had done was advise her about what was a very complex issue.

But Sinead said it was a very simple problem — violence and intimidation was wrong — and she now intends to do a show in Belfast later in the year that she would pay for herself.

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