Belfast Telegraph

Ringing in of 2019 will be damp squib as Northern Ireland councils refuse to party

By Claire McNeilly

Love them or loathe them, there's no getting away from New Year's Eve celebrations - unless you live in Northern Ireland.

And that's because no public celebrations have been planned locally to bring in 2019, in stark contrast to the rest of the island and the UK.

Although some merrymakers will get on the glad rags and go dancing, hit the pub or go to a restaurant, those wanting to see in the new year on a grander scale will have to head elsewhere.

Belfast last hosted a New Year's Eve concert in 2008, and the lack of pomp and ceremony around the occasion since then has provoked criticism from some famous faces.

Cool FM DJ Pete Snodden said it's a great shame that Northern Ireland does nothing to mark the date.

"You see pictures from New Year's Eve across the world on the TV news every New Year's Day - London, Tokyo, Sydney - and Belfast is never featured because there's never anything there," he said.

"It's a pretty sad state of affairs.

"I'm one of these people who looks forward to the new year and it would be nice to have something that everyone could get involved in, but unfortunately that's not the case.

"Maybe at some stage in the future we'll manage to organise a celebration that everyone at least has the option of going to."

Celebrity chef Paula McIntyre argued local councils "have a civic duty to do something to mark New Year's Eve".

"How much money would it cost, really?" she said.

"Apart from anything else, by doing nothing, we stand out from the rest of the UK and Ireland.

"Belfast is a great party city.

"Hoteliers and restaurateurs are doing their bit, but the council should be helping."

Radio presenter Stephen Clements, who's not working today for the first time in years, said it would be great to have a free street party.

"In global terms, Belfast is on the map because of things like Game Of Thrones, so I think something like that would be well received," he said.

"Personally, my wife's working so I'm looking forward to sitting in and keeping the kids up until midnight to watch the fireworks in the hope of them lying on the next day."

Belfast City Council said a decision was taken in 2009 not to stage any more official events to mark the new year.

"The decision was made due to a combination of the current economic climate and a lack of public demand for such an event," she said.

Derry City and Strabane District Council confirmed that it had no plans to host a celebration.

"While there is no official civic event planned for New Year's Eve, the council did host a series of hugely successful events in the run-up to the Christmas period including a Christmas Winterland Market and mayoral animation programme," it said.

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