Belfast Telegraph

Colour Lagan green for St Pat's, I've no problem if it's Orange for Twelfth, says Sinn Fein councillor

Silly nonsense, says unionist McGimpsey

By Jonathan Bell

A Sinn Fein councillor has said she would have no problem with colouring the Lagan Orange for the Twelfth.

During Wednesday night's meeting of the Growth and Regeneration Committee, which considered ditching the annual St Patrick's Day concert, a suggestion was made that the Lagan could be greened for the celebrations.

Sinn Fein councillor Deirdre Hargey said some attending the meeting "shuddered" at the suggestion. She accused "political unionism" of trying to make the issue a divisive one.

"There are plenty of building around the world that go green for St Patrick's - what is wrong with that?" she told the BBC Stephen Nolan show.

Asked if she would have a problem with the Lagan going Orange for the day, she said she had "no issue whatsoever".

"All should have equal place in our city," she went on.

"We are city of many identities and they should be respected and reflected in our city."

The councillor said there was "no elements of the parade that would put unionists off from attending".

She suggested that if Protestant schools got the day off it would help make the event more inclusive.

"That's one of the stumbling blocks," she said.

"There are two identities in our city and they need to be included and respected. The Irish flag shouldn't be seen as sensitive or divisive, nor should the display of unionist culture - we should be more mature about our politics.

However, Ulster Unionist councillor described the idea of greening the Lagan as "silly nonsense".

"I've no problem, dye every river if you think it will help your Irishness. I lived in New York, I drank the green beer, it's just beer with vegetable colouring." he said.

Councillor McGimpsey said he hadn't attended the event because he instead went to a St Patrick's day event organised by the cross-community Irish Association for Culture, Economic and Social Relations and had done for the past 30 years.

He said constituents which had been to the parade in the city felt "uncomfortable" because "they felt they were watching someone else's parade".

The proposals to have feeder parader leading into a main parade "could be a recipe for disaster," he add.

"Whatever your views on the Twelfth, all the problems take place with the feeder parades."

He continued: "No one is trying to strangle the parade. The proposal from the council was to make the parade bigger and we expect crowds to grow.

"I am getting increasing browned off with Sinn Feiners explaining to me what it like to be Irish and only their definition of Irish.

"I have never felt myself to be anything else other than Irish. I am an Irish unionist, a member of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, a member of the Irish Association for Culture, Economic and Social Relations, the Non-Subscribing Prebyterian Church in Ireland and I also have an Irish surname.

"I am in no doubt about my Irishness and don't need someone to explain it to me."

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