Narrowing the cultural space, or standards?

Pauline Hadaway on Spiked with a theme that’s familiar to anyone who has tried to open up new political or cultural spaces in Northern Ireland. In response to the issue of public sponsorship of the arts raised by the Factotum sorry day case, Sinn Fein was behind a more open hands off approach, whilst the DUP was opposed:

You failed to deliver a ‘positive image of the city’? You published material that an individual or community found offensive? These are narrow boundaries and unfortunately the ground is further narrowing, as definitions of what is offensive are stretched to include hurt feelings, being upset, or just feeling uncomfortable.

  • An Bearnach

    The IRA has not denied it did the Northern Bank. The legendary ‘senior republican’ didn’t say they didn’t do it, he ‘dismissed the allegation’ which leaves extensive wriggle room in case the loot turns up in the wrong place.

    But huffing and puffing about the credibility of Provo IRA statements doesn’t change the fact that their actions have been denied, or left unclaimed which amounts to the same thing, on many occaions. Within two hours of the massacre at Kingsmill in 1976, three prominent Provos practically took a bow for admiring supporters in a pub in Crowe Street, Dundalk. In 1994 when they shot Frank Kerr through the head in Newry Post Office, the Provos said the ceasefire was intact. They are not believable on this one, and that is why they are not being believed.

    I have come to the conclusion that the P. in P. O’Neill stands for Pinocchio. God be good to the soul of J.J. McGarritty.

  • Mick Fealty

    This looks like the right comment, wrong story!

  • Davros

    Why was discussion of exorcism deemed offensive ?
    Interesting story in yesterday’s Irish News , page 6, about an exorcism in a Co Londonderry house carried out jointly by a Dublin Priest, Fr Pat Collins, and a retired C of I cleric, Canon Lendrum.
    In fact there’s a growing interest in exorcism…
    Vatican offering course in Satanism and exorcism for €188

    Sunday January 9th 2005
    in London
    A VATICAN university is to offer the first official qualification in Satanism for Roman Catholic priests in an effort to counter “a worrying increase in interest in the occult”.
    The school of theology at Regina Apostolorum, one of Rome’s most prestigious pontifical universities, has devised a two-month course including how to carry out an exorcism, in response to warnings that half a million Italians have had contact with satanic sects.
    The first series of four-hour lectures, to start next month, will cover the anthropological, theological and liturgical aspects of Satanism, and includes instruction by an expert exorcist.

  • CyberScribe

    Belfast Censorship battle


    From Richard West [richard[ at]]
    Subject: Belfast Censorship battle

    The Vacuum vs. Belfast City Council censorship dispute will reach a conclusion in the High Court on the 13th September. Here is a press release about the case. Please spread the word, the more people that hear about it or write about it the better.

    This is the first time in the UK that a Council has been challenged with the European Convention on Human Rights article 10 on freedom of expression.?Last September the Council wrote to Factotum demanding we apologise to ‘the citizens of the city’ and ‘provide an assurance that future publications will meet such criteria as may be established by the Council’.?

    We would like to encourage as many people involved in the arts to come along to the court and witness the defence of freedom of expression in a public forum. The High Court is open to the public but to be there for the start come at 10am. The High Court is opposite the new new Laganside Courts facing the Waterfront.



    A potentially landmark Human Rights case resulting from a year-long dispute between Belfast City Council and the free cultural newspaper The Vacuum is due to take place on Tuesday 13th September 2005.

    The Council’s demand that the publication provide an apology to ‘citizens of the city’ and ‘members of the Council’ for offence caused in previous issues is being challenged in the High Court by one of the paper’s editors, Richard West, as a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. If successful, this will be the first time, since the coming into force of the Human Rights Act 1998, that a local authority will have been held to be in breach of an individual or organisation’s right to freedom of expression as protected under the legislation.

    The legal showdown comes amidst heated debate over the new Incitement to Religious Hatred Bill and its potential to curtail free expression. It also follows the debate about the play ‘Behzti’ (Dishonour) which was closed after violent protests by the Sikh community and the BBC received unprecedented numbers of complaints about the broadcast of ‘Jerry Springer the Opera’.

    The Belfast controversy arose from a single complaint from a member of the public concerning ‘God’ and ‘Satan’ themed issues of The Vacuum published in June 2004. Councillors reacted by describing it as ‘filth’, claiming that it was ‘encouraging devil worship’ and voting 24-12 to withhold an agreed funding allocation of £3,300 until an apology was provided. This prompted The Vacuum to hold a satirical ‘Sorry Day’ in December ridiculing the council’s demand for an apology, but also raising serious questions about censorship and freedom of speech.

    In stark contrast to the attitude of the city authorities towards The Vacuum, its publishers, Factotum, have been selected as part of a delegation of artists to represent Northern Ireland at the Venice Biennale this summer. They have also been nominated for the prestigious Paul Hamlyn Award and received commissions to produce new publications in London and Dublin. The paper currently has a circulation of 15,000, concentrated in Belfast where it is available to pick up in cafes, bars, libraries, galleries, cinemas and hotels, and is lauded for making a valuable contribution to cultural life in the city.

    Information for editors
    The Vacuum is a monthly newspaper it contains articles around themed subjects such as Culture, Education, Sex and Danger. Contributors to previous issues have included Roy Foster, Bill Drummond and Glenn Patterson.

    Richard West is represented by Higgins Hollywood Deazley, Michael Lavery QC and Mary Higgins BL. The solicitor Matthew Higgins can be contacted
    at +44 2890 770770

    To see the content of previous issues go to:

    For background information about the case see:

    For press coverage of the story before it went to court:,6903,1361333,00.html,6903,1258750,00.html
    It was also covered on the Today Programme, The Sun, the Media Guardian, Radio Ulster and GMTV

    To contact the editors email this address or phone:
    +44 28 9033 0893 or +44 28 90 329691