- 18 Aug 21
"The only parallel that I can think of is feeling like Shay Given did in 2009, when Thierry Henry handballed that ball," Melvin Benn says. "Everybody knew it was wrong, and yet the ref ignored it and somehow, as far as I am concerned, everybody knows this is wrong."
Speaking on RTÉ Radio One's News At One with Bryan Dobson earlier today, Electric Picnic's Festival Director Melvin Benn has expressed his anger over the "lack of leadership" in reopening the live music sector, as well as the "culture of fear" he claims NPHET have created.
Benn is the Managing Director of Festival Republic – who organise Electric Picnic, as well as UK festivals Latitude, Reading and Leeds, and more. He was speaking on RTÉ Radio One ahead of music industry representatives' meeting with the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin today.
Noting that he expects "not very much at all" from today's meeting, Benn went on to compare the failure to fully reopen music festivals to Thierry Henry's handball against Ireland in 2009.
"The only parallel that I can think of is feeling like Shay Given did in 2009, when Thierry Henry handballed that ball," he said. "Everybody knew it was wrong, and yet the ref ignored it and somehow, as far as I am concerned, everybody knows this is wrong.
"NPHET have created a culture of fear and there is no political leadership that is challenging that or moving it on," he continued. "It’s not about Laois County Council, the whole culture of fear is wrong."
He went on to state that results are available from the test events in the UK.
"What we were talking about at the Electric Picnic was fully vaccinated people," he remarked. "The test event where nothing was being recorded as significant spikes, we were just doing lateral flow tests. What we were offering at the Picnic was significantly more than that and yet still nobody responding at all. I mean it is an appalling situation."
He said that "political leadership" is the main contrast between the situation in Ireland, and the situation in the UK and the US.
"It’s the same virus," he resumed. "It isn’t a different virus in Ireland that it is in UK or America. It isn’t a different science, the science is as clear as it comes. You can put people together, particularly in outdoor spaces, and provided they’re all tested and providing they’re all fully vaccinated, there will not be a spike as a result of it. The science is there but it is not being read and adopted and the clear difference is political leadership, no more than that."
He went on to address the cancellation of Electric Picnic – saying he has "not that much" hope that the decision would be reversed.
"Without political leadership, is there any hope?" he reflected. "No. Public health will tell you the safest event that can happen is one that doesn’t happen because nobody will get injured or get the virus from something that doesn’t happen. Is that the kind of leadership that is out in Ireland at the moment, is that the public advice that is there?"
"Have you given up on Electric Picnic this year?" Dobson asked.
"I never give up," Benn responded.
Listen back to the full interview here.