Boycott of US festival over Gaza a ‘no brainer’ for hip hop band Kneecap

It is a “no brainer” for Kneecap to boycott a US festival over Gaza, a member of the Belfast hip hop trio has said.

Irish artists including Soda Blonde and Mick Flannery have withdrawn from South by Southwest (SXSW) over opposition to the US Army being a sponsor, citing US support for Israel’s military operation in the Gaza Strip.

An Enterprise Ireland-led delegation is taking part in the arts festival, which is being held in Austin, Texas, this week.

RTE pay revelations
Culture Minister Catherine Martin has said she will still be attending the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas (Brian Lawless/PA)

Culture Minister Catherine Martin has said she will still go, despite the boycott by Irish artists.

Social Democrats leader Holly Cairns said it is “deeply disturbing” that the minister plans to attend the festival, while People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy said it is “nothing short of shameful”.

Ms Martin has said she respects musicians’ freedom of expression and will use the visit “to make clear her revulsion at the devastation that has been unleashed on Gaza”.

Kneecap member Mo Chara said the band’s decision to boycott the event was made after it emerged the US Army is a “super” sponsor and that talks by companies which manufacture weapons are among the events.

“I think it was a no brainer once the information started coming to light, and we just made the decision, because it’s good to be on the right side of history as Irish people,” he said on RTE Radio.

“I was very, very proud to see a lot of bands follow suit and that the Irish people will always be in solidarity with the Palestinian people.”

He said the financial hit they will take for not being paid for the performance, as well as the cost of flights and accommodation in Texas, is “a minor hiccup in our careers in comparison to what’s happening in Gaza”.

“All we did was pull out of a gig. Yes, we lost a bit of money, but it’s priceless to do the right thing.”

Asked whether it would have been more effective to go to the festival and make a statement about Gaza, he said: “Having our name on a poster or having our name in any way associated with that festival is clearly supporting the festival.

“It’s also gathering more crowds to come to this festival to see certain bands, and I think it does better for the festival us being there than us not being there.

“If I know my fans like I think I do, I think they’ll be very much supportive of our decision.”

Asked about the minister’s decision to attend, he said: “We’re not here to speak on behalf of other people or say who should and shouldn’t go, we were only making the decision based on us.

“But I know the minister was saying that she was going to support Irish acts. I think she’ll be standing at the Irish stage on her own seeing as there’s no Irish acts playing anymore. But if she’s using her platform to speak out against it, then all the power to her.”