'Go easy on booze' plea as St Patrick's party kicks off
A massive four-day St Patrick's Day festival has begun amid calls for celebrations across Belfast not to be marred by booze-fuelled or anti-social behaviour.
Politicians have appealed for festivities not to be spoiled after a "torrid" few months for the city.
As well as the annual City Council parade and concert, the 2013 programme – which is costing ratepayers £200,000 – includes a range of alcohol-free events.
Thousands of revellers are expected to enjoy the traditional parade and concert at Custom House Square on Sunday that will be led by Sinn Fein Deputy Lord Mayor Tierna Cunningham. DUP Lord Mayor Gavin Robinson will attend events at the City Hall on Monday.
On Thursday night a joint operation to clamp down on anti-social behaviour was launched again in the Holylands area of south Belfast.
Around 20 council safety officers started patrolling the heavily populated student area.
It is the first city-wide event by the council since the Union flag row began in December.
PUP deputy leader John Kyle said he will be attending the carnival, adding: "Clearly we have been through a very torrid three months and I think the city is emerging from it."
• Full details of the programme, including venues and times, can be found at www.belfastcity.gov.uk/stpatricksday.
Events running until March 18 will be held in venues across the city including Ulster Hall, Waterfront Hall, St George's Market, Linenhall Library, An Culturlann and the Oh Yeah music centre. City Hall will host a variety of activities including talks and exhibitions, workshops, dance, traditional craft demonstrations, children's activities and storytelling. The concert at Custom House Square is a non-ticketed event and entry will be on a first come, first served basis from noon.