Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein fights bid to axe of St Pat’s Day Custom House Square gig in Belfast

By Victoria Leonard

The under-threat St Patrick's Day concert in Belfast has become a "victim of its own success", according to a councillor speaking ahead of a vote that may lead to the annual gig's cancellation.

Yesterday, the Belfast Telegraph revealed that Belfast City Council is seeking approval to cancel next March's Custom House Square concert on health and safety grounds.

Tomorrow, the local authority will ask the council's Growth and Regeneration Committee to amend the 2018 celebrations to a parade-only event.

The move follows council concerns that the popular concert, which has been staged for the past 11 years and draws a crowd of tens of thousands, would pose a "major risk to the public, contractors and council staff".

A report due to be presented to councillors advises that the changes "are designed to increase the robustness of health and safety plans attached to the event".

It cites concerns over the capacity of Custom House Square, particularly around the number of people trying to access the venue after the parade.

Ulster Unionist councillor Jeffrey Dudgeon - who is Deputy Chair of the Council's Growth and Regeneration Committee - said he "hadn't decided" how he would vote over the issue, but that health and safety issues were "paramount".

"The nature of the acts there means that the concert is more popular and attracts more people, so from that point of view it is a victim of its own success," he said.

"The numbers are getting bigger, which brings up health and safety issues, so I will listen to the views of health and safety officers."

However, Sinn Fein councillor Jim McVeigh said his party will oppose any attempt to cancel the concert at the Growth and Regeneration Committee.

He stated: "What we will be proposing is that additional resources are allocated to the St Patrick's Day festivities and that a new strategy for developing and expanding the festival is implemented.

"Belfast is Ireland's second city.

"The city council should be working to make our St Patrick's Day festivities even bigger and better and aim to attract an increased number of tourists to enjoy this fantastic worldwide celebration here on our own shores.

"If other cities around the world can have a spectacular St Patrick's Day festival then so can Belfast, and that should be the council's aim, not the cancelling of the concert."

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