22 February 2001 Edition

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Carnival organisers win moral victory

Belfast City Council has proved it would rather waste thousands of pounds of ratepayers' money on legal costs to defend its refusal to fund Belfast's St. Patrick's Day celebrations than fund what it sees as a nationalist celebration.

Last week, a High Court judge ordered council chiefs to pay estimated legal costs of £40,000, including those of the St Patrick's Day Carnival even though the cuncil technically won its case against the Carnival Committee.

The Carnival Committee was seeking a judicial review of the unionist-dominated council's continued refusal to fund the annual St Patrick's Day parade in Belfast. Although he dismissed the case because Carnival Committee members were in fact bringing a civil case aginst the council, High Court Judge Coghlin ordered the Council to pay all costs involved, including those of the Carnical Committee. The judge also ruled that that case should be heard by the county court.

The carnival organisors say it is ironic that the council's legal bill would have funded the cost of the event in the first place. Carnival spokesperson Catriona Ruane said that any satisfaction over winning a judgment against the council was cancelled out by the fact that the carnival will still not be funded.

``It is obvious even to the dogs in the street that Belfast City Council is discriminating against the St. Patrick's Day Carnival and the 50,000 children who take part in it each year,'' she said. ``The council is prepared to waste thousands on legal battles yet it won't give a penny to a community celebration. It is utterly without sense. The ratepayers of Belfast once again have to foot the bill for extortionate legal costs instead of funding the carnival.''

The legal battle will continue in the county court.

An Phoblacht
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