Former Belfast Lord Mayor Tom Ekin has criticized “nay-sayers” for limiting the potential of Belfast’s St Patrick’s Parade, but said the event was a success.
The Alliance Councillor stated: “It is a pity that the media yet again focused on the apparently negative aspects of the St Patrick’s day carnival in Belfast. This plays into the hands of those who want stagnation rather than progress.
“The quotations from various hues of Unionism were predictable. They claimed too many tricolours scared away the Protestant/unionist supporters of a free concert and a bit of fun. I suggest that the Unionist attitude of scaremongering was a real reason.
“Unlike most of those commentators, I was present for several hours. I spotted a few tricolours being sold to children by entrepreneurial illegal street traders, and a some tied around the waists of 3 or 4 young teenagers. That was all.
“I noted the press cameras, when they found a flag, focussed on it, but the big pictures on TV represented the reality of only one or two flags.
“I also noted that there was no alcohol present; there were noisy but not anti-social youngsters; plenty of family groups; the presence of people from anti-racism networks;, equality; and representatives of anti-war groups and all main churches.
“This would not have happened if the nay-sayers had had their way. It required practical conversations and a willingness to focus on how to make the future better than the past.
“It would be wonderful for Belfast if the traditional purveyers of negativity kept quiet and let the rest of us get on with building a normal future.
“Next year can be bigger and better and more inclusive of all youngsters, if only people would stop thinking that St Patrick was an Irish Republican.
“We can have religious services, a carnival parade, a pop concert, for everyone in Belfast, and make it a tourist attraction as well. Let’s get the timing right so that all schools can participate.
“And let us all note what precisely the nay-sayers and scaremongers from this year actually do to make next year’s parade achieve its full potential.”