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Irish Times: Feile artists question Shell sponsorship

Lorna Siggins, Western Correspondent
Published: Jul 27, 2007

Artists participating in a festival which opens in north Mayo this evening have expressed concern over Shell E&P Ireland’s sponsorship of the event.

Galway poet Rita Ann Higgins and Leitrim singer Mary McPartlan said they had “no idea” that Shell was supporting Feile Iorrais 07, an annual international folk arts festival which runs until August 4th in Erris.

Shell’s sponsorship is not included in the festival programme, but it is on the festival website.

Higgins, who is due to perform next week with McPartlan and musicians Gary O’Brian and Mary Staunton, told The Irish Times she would be discussing her position with her colleagues.

Other artists booked include musician Andy Irvine and Donegal poet Cathal O Searcaigh, along with musicians from Norway, Scotland, England, France and Australia.

“I won’t be used by Shell in a surreptitious or apparently harmless way,” Higgins said. “I would feel compromised to be paid for this. It is mostly a question of conscience.”

Sean O Coistealbha of the festival committee said there was no deliberate attempt to omit mention of Shell’s sponsorship, which amounted to 2,000. Grant-aid agencies giving more than 5,000 had been listed on the programme for “design reasons”.

Shell is among two additional sponsors included on the website, and Mr O Coistealbha said Shell’s name had been “on the website for the past five years”.

Musician Vincent McGrath, one of five men jailed two years ago over opposition to the Corrib gas pipeline, questioned why Shell’s name had not been mentioned in interviews about the event and in local advertising.

It was “curious” that Shell did not want to announce its sponsorship publicly, given the size of the event, he said. “At the same time, we do not want to cause divisions, so we are not asking artists to cancel their participation at this short notice,” Mr McGrath added. “They may be tied to contractual arrangements.”

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