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Martin to attend SXSW festival events despite boycott

Minister for Tourism, Sport, Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht Catherine Martin is to attend a number of events at the South by Southwest (SXSW) music festival in Austin, Texas despite calls for her to join a boycott of the event by a number of Irish artists.

Acts including Kneecap, Gavin James, Soda Blonde and Mick Flannery have pulled out of the festival citing the event’s association with the US military and the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict.

In a statement, the department said that while Minister Martin respects the Irish musicians who have withdrawn from the SXSW festival, she will attend events there as part of the Government’s St Patrick’s Day programme.

The department said she had spoken to the musicians who have withdrawn and that she “outlined that she has the utmost respect for their freedom of expression as artists and reassured them that she will use every opportunity available to her to make clear her revulsion at the devastation that has been unleashed on Gaza”.

A spokesman for the department said the events Ms Martin will attend “are aimed at promoting Ireland’s creative industries through a trade mission led by Enterprise Ireland and a comprehensive promotion of Ireland’s film industry”.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said it was aware of the decision by a number of artists to withdraw from SXSW.

The department said it “supports artists’ rights to freedom of expression and does not advise artists in relation to choices they make on where to perform”.

Earlier, Social Democrats leader Holly Cairns called on Ms Martin to join the boycott of the SXSW festival.

Ms Cairns said that Ms Martin should “stand in solidarity” with Irish artists who have cancelled their appearances at the event, adding that her attendance would be “deeply disturbing”.

“It is heartening to see a growing number of Irish acts pull out of SXSW after learning the US military is the main sponsor of the festival, which also features several large weapons manufacturers,” Ms Cairns said.

“The Irish artists who have cancelled their shows have sacrificed the opportunity to showcase their talents at a high-profile festival on a point of principle.

“They have done this at significant financial cost because they don’t want their work tainted by association with the US military industrial complex.

“Like the majority of Irish people, they are horrified at the slaughter of over 31,000 Palestinians and the forced starvation of Gaza’s population by Israel.

“Under these circumstances, it is wholly inappropriate for Minister Catherine Martin to attend the festival as part of her St Patrick’s Week visit to the United States.”

Meanwhile, the Music From Ireland group – which funds and promotes Irish acts to international delegates and which is funded by Culture Ireland – is facilitating a meeting today with artists who have travelled to Austin to discuss how they wish to proceed.

“If an artist chooses not to participate in SXSW this will not have a bearing on future showcasing opportunities for those artists.

“Music from Ireland and Culture Ireland actively supports artists’ right to freedom of expression, which is fundamental to their role as agents of change in society,” it added.

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