East Belfast Alliance Assembly member, Cllr Naomi Long, proposed a compromise last night which was agreed by Belfast City Council to try to ensure co-operation with the St Patrick’s Day Carnival Committee. The proposal, which was agreed at last night’s special Council meeting, will mean that, whilst no direct funding will be provided to the Committee for this year’s celebrations, the Council will work closely with the Committee to facilitate aspects of the event.
Naomi Long said: “Our position on St.Patrick’s Day has been consistent from the outset – we want to see an outdoor event which the entire community can participate in and feel ownership of. For years, we have put forward constructive and practical suggestions of how to achieve this which have been ignored by previous carnival committees, and even this year, when the Council started to engage on this issue back in September, the attitude of the Committee was hostile and unresponsive to these suggestions.
“This year’s event does not happen in a vacuum – there is a legacy created by previous parades and last year’s parade, in particular. The membership of the Committee has recently changed, and we have seen a more positive engagement over the last month, which we welcome; however, in such a short time it has not been possible for them to deliver enough actual progress for us to be confident that this year’s parade will be substantially different from previous years. To fund the parade directly, we need more than good intentions – we need to see substantive progress on key issues.
“Although we feel that direct funding of £30,000 this year would be premature, we want to recognise that there has been a more cooperative attitude over recent weeks and some small indications of potential progress. In recognition of this and to encourage closer cooperation before next year, I proposed that the Council would engage with the Carnival Committee, if they are willing, on issues such as litter control, health and safety issues, alcohol bye-law enforcement, and street trading, to assist in delivery of the event and ensure that the carnival organisers get the kind of practical support and cooperation which would help deliver an improved event. Hopefully, we can continue over the next 12 months to develop this cooperation and have a truly inclusive, Council funded event in 2006.”