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New Year parties in cities the world over... except Belfast

By Joanne Fleming

Millions of revellers have welcomed in the New Year with a bang in cities around the world, but in Belfast the celebrations were a damp squib.

While pubs, clubs and restaurants expected a busy evening, there were no civic events, free public concerts or firework displays to mark the start of 2016.

The only public sign of the New Year in Belfast was an illuminated "light countdown" at Belfast City Hall approaching midnight.

There has been no free concert at the City Hall since 2008 and Belfast City Council say there are no plans to reintroduce it.

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At the time it was criticised for being too expensive and failing to be fully supported by the public.

Nor are there plans for any civic parties in our second largest city, Londonderry.

And while celebrations on the scale of Edinburgh's world-famous three-day Hogmanay festival may be a stretch of the imagination, residents of cities a similar size to Belfast thronged the streets and brave the chilly temperatures.

Cardiff's New Year firework show was staged in the city's 'Winter Wonderland', with live music, funfair rides and a range of food on hand. Newcastle's Winter Carnival Parade returned to ring in the New Year, culminating in a fireworks finale.

Manchester City Council also staged its annual New Year's fireworks display with revellers invited to the family-friendly, alcohol-free countdown to 2016.

London's night sky was lit up with a display of stunning pyrotechnics from the capital's famous South Bank.

With Belfast transformed into a major city break destination in recent years, some are unimpressed that we are failing to display our wares on New Year's Eve.

Patsy McGlone, chair of the Assembly's committee on enterprise, trade and investment, said money was found "for all sorts of things" in government and believed New Year's Eve celebrations could be improved without impacting on ratepayers.

A spokesman for Belfast City Council said: "Belfast City Council decided in 2009 not to stage any more civic events to mark the New Year. As in more recent years, the City Hall once again will be illuminated with a 'light countdown' to ring in the New Year.

"Information on New Year's Eve entertainment in the city can be found at www.visit-belfast.com."

A spokeswoman for Derry City and Strabane Council said: "While there are no official civic events planned for New Year, the council hosts a packed programme of events to suit all ages throughout the entire year."

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