AP front 1 - 2022

11 March 1999 Edition

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Festival of Fun

Le Padraig MacDabhaid
Despite the best efforts of Unionist politicians, the people of Belfast are set to hold one of the biggest and most colourful St Patrick's Day parades ever seen in the city.

Due to the huge interest generated from both outside and inside Belfast the venue at City Hall is expected to be flooded with thousands of people as last year an estimated 80,000 attended the event.

The St Patrick's Carnival Committee in Belfast has been meeting since April last year to plan the event. Initially the committee was working in partnership with Belfast City Council. However, on February 1 1999 a motion by the DUP's Sammy Wilson, seconded by the PUP's Billy Hutchinson urging the council to withdraw the 50,000 funding it was giving to the Committee was passed. Hutchinson and Wilson argued that the St Patrick's Day parade excluded unionists and was political, a charge denied by parade organiser Caitriona Ruane who said, ``last year thousands of people from all ethnic and political backgrounds celebrated St Patrick's Day in an atmosphere of fun. This year would have been no different''.

And in a move that was disappointing to nationalists SDLP councillors at both committee stage and council stage refused to back the festival committee, siding with the unionists.

This placed the Carnival Committee in the unenviable position of having to raise 60,000 in six weeks. However, an with international and national appeal they managed to raise 52,000 in four weeks. The funds have come from funders, businesses, community groups, functions in bars and clubs, street collections, and childrens pocket money, and are still flooding in.

Caitriona Ruane, Chairperson of the Carnival congratulated the organisers for raising the money.

The Carnival has brought communities throughout Belfast closer together in order to make this event work. Communities throughout Belfast are preparing for St Patrick's Carnival, organising over 100 arts workshops throughout the city with artists and young people making artwork around the theme of ``Earth, Wind and Fire''. The organisers are hoping that people throughout Ireland will attend the carnival, indeed a bus is travelling from the Garvaghy Road for the occasion. Speaking to AP/RN, Caitriona Ruane said, ``the Dublin Parade is the biggest in Ireland with Belfast the next in line. Therefore we would hope that anyone, particularly those closer to Belfast will come here and support our parade''.

In discussing the Unionist decision not to support the event she said, ``we have been contacted by people from areas which those who voted against the parade claim to represent and they have said that they are disgusted at their actions in not supporting the carnival''.

She concluded, ``we have acts/performers from Africa, Asia, and Latin America. We have booked a big screen so that the people of Belfast can see this colourful show and join with us in celebrating the Belfast St Patrick's Carnival''.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1