A prominent DUP woman has broken ranks with her council colleagues to condemn the banning of a play about the Bible from a Newtownabbey theatre.
Alderman Dineen Walker, deputy mayor of Newtownabbey, told the
Belfast Telegraph she intends to vote to overturn a decision on the
Reduced Shakespeare Company play her party colleagues branded as
blasphemous and an attack on Christianity.
Ms Walker said it was
not the job of councillors to censor art. While she has no interest in
seeing The Bible: The Complete Word Of God (Abridged) production which
was to play two nights at the Theatre At The Mill this week, she does
not think it is appropriate to restrict others from doing so.
has been growing since it was revealed the council's artistic board –
made up of councillors and independent members – had pulled the plug on
the irreverent comedy under pressure from the DUP. The decision caused
outrage and made international headlines.
Several weeks ago, DUP
councillor Billy Ball made it clear to this newspaper that the party
would use a vote at tonight's full council meeting to stop the
The decision to ban the play, which has been
performed across the globe over the last 20 years without ever being
cancelled, was then taken last Wednesday at an away day meeting of the
council's artistic board, with no DUP members present.
who was at the away day told this newspaper they feared members of the
board would be forced to resign if the issue went before the full
council meeting and that subsequently power to censor art at the Mossley
Mill theatre would be in the control of the DUP.
Only one person voted against the motion to cancel the show.
artistic board member Johnathan Hodge from Larne – who is a Christian
and also a member of the PUP executive – said he had no interest in
seeing the play but did not want to stop others from seeing it.
ahead of a vote tonight to reinstate the play to the borough's Theatre
at the Mill, Ms Walker said she was on holiday last week but if she had
been around she "definitely would never have voted to censor it".
night, she said since returning home on Friday she has been inundated
with emails, Facebook messages and text messages about the cancellation
of the show.
"I personally don't think we should be censoring things like this," she said. "It's not a council's responsibility to do it. I
do believe in God, but I am not a practicing Christian, and I
personally wouldn't have gone to see the play, but I don't think, as
elected representatives, we should be pointing the finger at anyone."
taking a different view on the matter than her Christian party
colleagues – such as Billy Ball, Audrey Ball and Mandy Girvan – the
deputy mayor added: "That's fine".
The councillor said she thinks the whole situation is now "out of control" and hopes the matter can be resolved tonight.
"I like comedy and plays, but it just wouldn't have interested me," she added.
"Only 18% of the tickets had been sold for the play, but now it has hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons."
Given the worldwide publicity the Newtownabbey council decision has garnered, several dates on the UK tour have now sold out.
cancellation of the internationally acclaimed comedy show – which was
due to run at Theatre At The Mill this Wednesday and Thursday – has
enraged large numbers of people online and a number of prominent
figures, including Australian comedian Tim Minchin and English scientist
Patrick Corrigan from human rights organisation
Amnesty International described the ban in Newtownabbey as interference
with freedom of speech and artistic expression that "should be of
concern to freedom lovers everywhere".
And the Stormont Culture
Minister Caral Ni Chuilin echoed sentiments from the Arts Council of
Northern Ireland regarding its disappointment that the show has been
Meanwhile, the cast and crew from Newbury Productions and the Reduced Shakespeare Company arrived in Northern Ireland yesterday.
posted from their Twitter account, which has swollen to more than
10,000 followers since the row erupted, poked fun at the DUP and some of
the less liberal aspects of life here.
The Twitter name @reduced
posted: "Made it to NI & tried to hit the shops this morning.
They're closed until 1pm on Sundays. #ThouShaltNotSHOPApparentlyEither" A
further post from @reduced said: "Woke up & saw we now have 10K
followers. Tis a glorious Sabbath. Thanks, @duponline - couldn't have
done it without you! #ThouShaltNotLaugh"
And a petition supported by the Reduced Shakespeare Company has gathered more than 1,000 signatures.