10 February 2005 Edition

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Belfast Paddy's Day funding blocked again

Funding for the annual St Patrick's Day Carnival in Belfast has once again been blocked by bigots in City Hall.

The £30,000 funding for the festival, to be held at City Hall, had previously been approved by the council's Good Relations Committee and the Policy and Resources Committee, with the approval of a number of unionist councillors, who had acknowledged the efforts of Carnival organisers to reach out to all communities.

However, on Tuesday 1 February Ulster Unionist Councillor Bob Stoker requested that the funding approval be taken back to committee, as he wanted more assurances of unionist inclusion in the event.

Following this, at a full council meeting on Friday 4 February, Ulster Unionist, DUP and Alliance councillors combined to overturn the decision to provide funding, restating the unionist criticism that the carnival was one-sided.

Sinn Féin and the SDLP criticised the decision and were joined in their criticism by Progressive Unionist Party Councillor Billy Hutchinson.

"I argued that we should fund this year's event because we can't keep looking back to the past. The St Patrick's Day Carnival showed that they had genuinely tried to reach out to Protestants," said Hutchinson.

Carnival organiser Conor Maskey said nationalists felt betrayed by the snub and criticised the UUP's Stoker who, he said, failed to meet carnival organisers despite repeated attempts to contact him.

He vowed that this year's carnival will go ahead regardless.

While unionist councillors had opposed previous St Patricks Day Carnivals because of the presence of Tricolours, this year organisers had adopted a multicoloured shamrock as its official emblem.

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