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Bishop joins opposition to Sunday switch plan for Belfast marathon

By Stewart Robson

A Church of Ireland bishop has voiced his opposition to a proposal for the Belfast City Marathon to be moved to Sunday.

The Right Reverend Harold Miller of the Down and Dromore diocese said the event should stay "open for all" including Christians who wanted to take part in the event.

He welcomed news that Belfast City Council had deferred a decision on shifting the race from its usual date on May Day Monday.

Bishop Miller said: "The objections raised have included the question of people being able to get to worship if the event is held on a Sunday, and roads are closed.

"In fact the issue is wider. The marathon on May Day Monday is one of those really important events in the city, because it is genuinely embraced by all.

"That includes a very large number of people who are practising Christians.

"For such people, Sunday worship is part of the key pattern of their lives.

"Holding the event on a Sunday would be very difficult for many of them, and I would urge that this wider aspect of the decision be considered.

"Please don't create a situation which excludes a key part of the community. Keep the marathon open to all."

While the council was involved in the administration of the marathon in the past, the Belfast City Marathon Limited is a free standing organisation that has no legal connection to Belfast City Council, other than providing funding.

The race, now in its fourth decade, currently starts at Belfast City Hall, and finishes at Ormeau Park, but this could be moved to Stormont.

Jane Hodgers, from General Merchants restaurant close to Ormeau Park said that she doesn't believe a change in route would hamper their revenue.

"We're happy when the marathon passes us and we'd be just as happy if it wasn't passing us," she said. "We would have a good enough footfall anyway with people on the Ormeau Road.

"The event does have a positive impact on us though. We trade seven days a week so it'll be good for us either way."

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