24 February 2000 Edition

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Paddy's Day hypocrisy

While blocking funding for its own city's inclusive festivities, Belfast City Council has decided to send its unionist mayor to Washington DC to celebrate St Patrick's Day, writes Caítlin Doherty

Belfast City Council has again highlighted its hypocrisy towards Saint Patrick's Day festivities. Ulster Unionist mayor Robert Stoker has been encouraged to participate in festivities at the expense of victims of the council's discriminatory policies. Last Friday, the Policy and Resources Committee authorised a trip to Washington DC by Stoker.

Caitríona Ruane, chairperson of the Belfast St. Patrick's Day Carnival Committee, which was refused funding by the council, said her team felt it was important that Irish emigrants around the world were able to celebrate with Northern politicians. But she added: ``The Lord Mayor himself voted against the funding for Belfast's carnival. It is now the ordinary rate payers the council has discriminated against who will have to pay the cost of Stoker's trip.''

Upper Falls Sinn Féin Councillor Micheal Browne added: ``By blocking funding to a St. Patrick's Day event in Belfast, unionist and Alliance councillors have effectively attempted to deny the people of Belfast the opportunity of celebrating the occasion. It becomes a matter of extreme hypocrisy that these councillors should now insist that the council be represented at a celebration of the day in Washington.''

The carnival committee is struggling to raise an estimated £50 000 needed for the event. So far it has collected only £14 000. On Tuesday, 22 February, Gerry Adams joined the Festival Committee for the launch of its ``wheelie bin campaign''.

Donations can be made to the St. Patrick's Day Committee, Bank of Ireland, Sort Code 90-21-27, Account number 492-43652, Donegal Place, Belfast BT1 5BX

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