20 May 1999 Edition

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Belfast Council excluding nationalists

Not content with trying to destroy the St Patrick's Day carnival by withdrawing the £50,000 usually awarded, Belfast City Council has now succeeded in driving nationalists away from the Lord Mayor's Show.

In an open letter to Lord Mayor David Alderdice, Chairperson of the St. Patrick's Day Carnival Committee Caitríona Ruane expressed disappointment at the decision of the organisers, ``not to demilitarise the Lord Mayor's Show, as was done last year by Alban Magennis''.

The letter continues: ``As you know, we had discussed the invitation to participate at our St. Patrick's Committee meeting and all the groups from North, South, East and West Belfast on the Committee had agreed to take part and were really looking forward to it. Following a conversation that I had with the show's organisers, I then discovered that the Royal Irish Regiment was invited to lead the show and that the RUC were taking part in the event''.

This is a particular slap in the face to the St. Patrick's Committee, which followed guidelines banning any militaristic bands from participating in the 17 March carnival in order to make it acceptable to the whole community. And yet the St. Patrick's Day parade still had its funding cut.''

Ruane highlighted the appalling human rights record of the RUC and said: ``By inviting such a military force to participate in the event means that you effectively exclude huge sections of the communities that live in the city. Why should taxpayers fund a militaristic band to perform outside City Hall''.

Ruane then accused organisers of the Lord Mayor parade of attempt to divert attention away from the real issue by saying that, ``the RUC are not really taking part in the event, they are only performing outside City Hall prior to the Parade''.

The real issue is that the presence of the RUC or RIR will mean that communities throughout Belfast will not participate''.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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