Cllr Tom Ekin has said he is delighted at the given to the part played by the Alliance Councillors in progressing the contentious St Patrick’s Day over the last few years.
The former Lord Mayor stated: “We have had recognition across the board about the role played by Alliance in progressing the objective of an inclusive, quality St Patrick’s Day parade for Belfast. Even Jim Gibney from Sinn Féin was prepared to say as much in the Irish News.
“We always contended that St Patrick was not exclusive to one section of the community, nor was he an Irish Republican. He should be an inclusive symbol for everyone on this island. A well-run festival to commemorate this would be a positive addition to a vibrant, successful Belfast.
“What we were not about to do was spend ratepayers’ money as long as the St Patrick’s day event was exclusive and sectarian. It has the same civic responsibilities as any other popular, public event.
“Only by Alliance Councillors and the organising committee discussing the issues constructively have we been able to make progress.
“Of course, every progressive step by Belfast City Council in the last few years has been due to the courage and fundamentally non-sectarian nature of Alliance councillors, the lesson to be learned by others is that we can make progress only if we talk to each other and start to build up trust in the individuals with whom we are in contact.
“No one said it is easy, but it is about time that the value of non-sectarian rationality and common sense was recognised.”