No funding for Belfast's St Patrick's Day festival
No funding for Belfast's St Patrick's Day festival

A petition has begun calling on Belfast city council to provide funding for this year's St Patrick's Day celebrations.

The current Belfast Mayor, Martin Morgan launced the petition yesterday -- despite his party being held responsible for the council's refusal to fund the event for the eighth year in a row.

SDLP Councillor Carmel Hanna abstained from a crucial vote which would have seen the carnival approved for funding for the very first time. As a result, she managed to single-handedly lose the carnival up to of #20,000.

Hanna then went on to express her hope that this year's carnival would not include the flying of the Tricolour.

Twenty thousand took part in the celebrations last year.

Undeterred by the Council's bigotry, the St Patrick's Day Carnival Committee intends to press ahead with the parade.

The Carnival Committee is moving into high gear over the next seven weeks, and dedicated volunteers are already on the streets fundraising.

So why is it that the second largest city in Ireland is unable to celebrate its Patron Saint?

``Unionists just don't want us celebrating St Patrick's Day outside City Hall,'' said Committee Chairperson Irene Sherry.

``Both they and the Alliance Party don't want any show of `Irishness' in the city centre. That's really what's behind it all.

``This isn't just an issue which affects people in Belfast but the whole of Ireland, and we hope people from all the different counties, or even further abroad, will show their support by coming to Belfast for the Carnival.

``We know it is unfair to go out with buckets and ask for donations, particularly at this time of year. But we have no other option. There is a real sense of urgency, as there are only 55 days left until St Patrick's Day, and we currently have only a small number of volunteers available to put on one of the largest events of the year.

``We need the help of the community sector, local businesses, and the people of the city. People of all ages can help, even in the smallest way, and we are humbled by the will of many to help out. Their support, commitment and enthusiasm can ensure that the carnival will continue to flourish and grow.

``We invite people everywhere to join with us in making this the biggest and best day Belfast has ever seen.''

* Anyone who wishes to help can contact Irene Sherry in Belfast at (02890) 743331 or (02890) 313440.

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