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Pauline Hadaway

You probably know that two editions of the Vacuum newspaper came in for some criticism earlier this month on the grounds of blasphemy and allegedly promoting devil worship.

The allegations were made by a small number of city councillors and while it is tempting to dismiss the whole story as Belfast's version of the silly season, it seems that the arts sub committee is being asked to consider censuring Factotum and possibly cutting their funding.

I have written a short letter to Eoin O'Broin, chair of the arts sub committee. Please read it. If you support the views expressed in the letter please let me know and I will attach your name (and organisation/ job title if appropriate). - Pauline Hadaway

Eoin O’Broin
Arts Sub Committee
Belfast City Council
Belfast BT1


Dear Eoin

According to news reports, a number of councillors have raised objections to two recent editions of the Vacuum newspaper on the grounds that they ‘promote devil worshipping’ and cause offence to ‘the catholic and protestant people of Belfast’. In the wake of these criticisms, we understand that Belfast City Council arts sub-committee may be asked to censure the publishers, Factotum, and possibly consider withdrawal of funding.

As a forum for ideas, serious and satirical, Vacuum enjoys a wide readership across a range of backgrounds and interests and is greatly valued by the many writers, who contribute articles free of charge. Many organisations and individuals operating in Belfast’s arts and cultural sector value its features, coverage of events, and reviews, not to mention the affordable advertising it offers. Familiar with the publication in general or having read the editions in question, many believe the allegations of ‘promoting devil worship’ are absurdly overstated.

However, beyond questions of Vacuum’s value to the cultural life of the city or the substance of the allegations being made against it, there is a much more important issue at stake, relating to the relationship between religious and civic values in Belfast’s political life. In a free society, religious beliefs are rightly considered a matter of individual conscience. In this modern, increasingly multicultural city is it really appropriate for councillors to bring religion into political processes or to continually identify citizens in religious or sectarian terms? Please raise these questions on behalf of the undersigned should any question of censuring Factotum on religious grounds be proposed at an arts sub committee meeting.

Yours sincerely

Pauline Hadaway (Director, Belfast Exposed)

Cc Naomi Long (Vice Chair arts sub committee, Belfast City Council)
Siobhan Stevenson (Culture and Arts Manager, Belfast City Council)



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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent


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23 July 2004

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