'The headline act is Ollie Murs' - Taoiseach defends move to launch festival that includes 'The Great Escape' leaders

The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has defended his decision to launch a Belfast festival which some link to the republican movement.

Leo Varadkar will travel to the North tonight where he will also make an historic visit to the headquarters of the Orange Order.

Tomorrow he will launch Féile an Phobail, which includes a talk by the leaders of 'The Great Escape' when IRA prisoners broke out of Long Kesh.

The move has been criticised by Austin Stack, whose father was murdered by the IRA.

Mr Stack tweeted: "The romance continues between @FineGael & @sinnfeinireland with @campaignforleo launching the Provo festival in Belfast which commemorates ‘The Great Escape’, this saw a Prison officer murdered & 8 wks later those who escaped murdered Pte Paddy Kelly in Ballinmore."

However, Mr Varadkar insists he is happy to be involved in the festival.

He said: "It is a community festival, Arlene Foster has spoken at it in the past.

"I believe the headline act this year is Ollie Murs, I don't believe anyone could accuse him of being a die-hard republican, so it is very much a community event and I'm very honoured to have been asked."

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