In an annual display of sectarianism, Belfast unionists have again voted to withhold funding for the city’s St Patrick’s Day carnival parade.
The St Patrick’s Day Carnival committee had applied for 30,000 pounds funding from Belfast City Council for this year’s March 17 festivities.
The funding had originally been approved by the council, but that decision was overturned by unionist and Alliance councillors last month.
Hardline unionist Nelson McCausland said the Irish ethos of previous carnivals offended unionists and their sense of Britishness.
The St Patrick’s Festival in Belfast has only been held in previous years on a shoestring budget garnered mainly from private donors. By contrast, the Dublin event has an annual turnover of 2.5 million Euro, of which almost half is provided as an annual grant by the 26 County government.
SDLP councillor Alban Maginness said he was mystified by unionist and Alliance objections.
“People across the world are amazed that here in Belfast we don’t celebrate St Patrick’s Day,” he said.
“This carnival committee has shown it is prepared to reach out to other communities.”
Sinn Fein councillor Tom Hartley blasted the supposedly moderate Alliance party.
“Once again last night the Alliance party in Belfast City Hall firmly nailed their colours to the unionist mast. In the recent past they have refused to support power sharing on the council and now have failed to support the St. Patrick’s Day Carnival in the city.”
He said nationalists would find it ironic that Alliance mayor Tom Ekin was prepared to celebrate St Patrick’s Day in London but had voted against a similar carnival in Belfast.
“It was agreed that carnival organisers bent over backwards to reach out to all communities but the unionist and Alliance councillors slapped them in the face,” he said.