Catherine Martin to attend SXSW events as Irish artists withdraw in solidarity with Gaza

A dozen Irish acts, including Kneecap, Soda Blonde and NewDad, will not perform due to festival’s links with US military

Minister for Arts Catherine Martin will attend events which form part of the SXSW festival, despite opposition politicians calling on her to drop the plans.

It comes after 12 Irish artists who had received funding to perform pulled out of the festival in solidarity with the people of Gaza, citing the US army’s sponsorship of the Austin, Texas event.

Irish language rap group Kneecap, as well as Soda Blonde, NewDad and Sprints, have also cited the presence of a subsidiary company of weapons manufacturer RTX Corporation at SXSW as a reason for cancelling appearances at the film, media, music and culture festival.

Singer songwriter Gavin James has also announced his decision to pull out of the festival, as has singer songwriter Mick Flannery. Some 80 artists and panelists in total have withdrawn from the festival, according to the Austin for Palestine collective.


Social Democrats leader Holly Cairns called on the Ms Martin to drop her plans to attend the festival events saying it would be “wholly inappropriate”.

In a statement on Tuesday afternoon, the Department of Culture said that Ms Martin will represent Ireland at a number of events in Austin as part of the Government’s St Patrick’s Day programme, some of which form part of the SXSW festival.

“These events 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. They are taking place in collaboration with Ireland’s consulates in Austin, Los Angeles and San Francisco, as well as the Department of Foreign Affairs, Culture Ireland, Screen Ireland, IDA, Tourism Ireland and Music from Ireland. In addition, the Minister will be engaging with young Irish business professionals and the wider diaspora in the region.”

“The Minister spoke this morning to many of the musicians who have withdrawn from the SXSW Festival. 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.”

The department said such opportunities would include the St Patrick’s Day consular reception in Austin on Tuesday night where she will “outline to attendees the Irish Government’s calls for an immediate ceasefire, the unconditional release of all hostages and a massive and sustained increase in humanitarian aid, food and medicine to the people of Gaza.”

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has backed Ms Martin’s decision.

Speaking in Boston on Tuesday during the second day of a trip to the US, he said: “I fully appreciate that people have the right to boycott events, should they choose to do so. And I totally respect that. But it’s not the policy of the Irish Government to engage in boycotts.

“It’s one thing to exclude a country from an event or from a competition or from a sporting event, or a film festival for example.

“It’s another thing to exclude yourself [when you were] not excluded and it’s not our policy to boycott. It’s our policy to engage. I absolutely appreciate that other people have a different view and so long as they’re consistent in their boycotts than I think that’s fair enough,” he said.

In her statement, Holly Cairns said Ms Martin should “stand in solidarity with Irish artists who have cancelled appearances at the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Texas due to the event’s association with the US military and arms industry.”

“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. 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,” she said.

Full list of Irish artists who withdrew from SXSW

  1. Cardinals
  2. Chalk
  3. Conchúr White
  4. Enola Gay
  5. Gavin James
  6. Gurriers
  7. Kneecap
  8. Mick Flannery
  9. NewDad
  10. Robert Grace
  11. Soda Blonde
  12. Sprints
Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times