Band apologises over special needs comments

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A singer in a band that played at the Limavady Jazz and Blues Festival has apologised for comments he made referring to a section of the audience as having special needs, writes Sheena Jackson.

The Belfast-based Lee Hedley band played to a large crowd in the town on Saturday night. During the gig lead singer, Lee Hedley directed comments to a group dancing at the side of the stage.

“I said, ‘Would you guys wind your neck in. You’re dancing like there is something wrong with you; like a bunch of retards’.“

Mr. Hedley said he retracted his comments, which also included the term “special needs”, but immediately apologised. He said there was “absolutely no malice intended”, and the comment was made “in the heat of the moment”. 

He says he has worked closely with people with special needs and has close friends whose children have special needs. 

“Absolutely I apologise. It was a flippant comment made in the direction of a small group of individuals,” he said. “I shouldn’t have said what I said and I am very, very sorry and I would even be prepared to do a fundraiser for the Special School.” 

One concert goer, who prefers not to be named, said he received an apology from the band, via the Jazz and Blues Commitee, but described it as “unsatisfactory”. “The term, ‘slip of the tongue’ was used in the apology,” he stated. “Should never slip on anyone’s tongue nor be used in private in my opinion.”

Festival chairman, Rory Clements said: “We have no control over what bands say when they are playing. We can only apologise on behalf of the band.”