Organisers of this year's Belfast St Patrick's Day Parade have reacted angrily to the news that the Royal Irish Regiment is to be given the use of the City Hall for a St Patrick's Day dinner dance.
The news comes as members of the St Patrick's Day Carnival Committee prepare for a judicial review challenging Belfast City Council's decision not to fund the parade on the basis that they didn't meet the council's cross-community criteria. This decision to again deny funding for the parade this year has been further aggravated by the decision to allow UDR and RIR men, complete with full regalia, freedom of the City Hall.
Carnival Committee chairperson Phil McTaggart said the news came as no surprise. ``It throws into sharp relief that the council's cross-community criteria are being applied very selectively,'' he said. ``I don't imagine that the RIR are being asked to put away their flags, guns and uniforms for the dinner, and I would be interested to know exactly how many nationalists are going to be there.''
Ironically, Unionist and Alliance Party members have taken the decision to accept an invitation to attend St Patrick's Day celebrations in Washington. Upper Falls Sinn Féin Councillor Michael Browne has accused the council of ``an appalling display of double standards''.