Belfast Telegraph

St Patrick's Belfast gig survives after Sinn Fein and unionists clash at city hall

By Cate McCurry

The under-threat St Patrick's Day concert in Belfast has been given the green light following heated discussions at City Hall.

Belfast City Council was seeking approval to cancel the popular event at Custom House Square on health and safety grounds.

However, the proposal was scrapped after the council agreed to make changes to the parade's finishing time and its end location.

Council officers appeared before City Hall's Growth and Regeneration Committee last night citing concerns around the number of people attending the parade and concert in the Custom House Square area.

The council raised fears that the 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".

It came amid angry exchanges between Sinn Fein and unionist councillors over a separate report into how the St Patrick's Day event can be improved.

Speaking about the health and safety concerns surrounding the concert and parade area, a council staff member said: "We are trying to squeeze everyone together and we do have concerns about this.

"It's not about health and safety at the concert but where it's held."

Sinn Fein councillor Ciaran Beattie said he wanted to keep the concert and parade but suggested changing the times of the parade and the starting and finishing points.

"We have no issues hosting major events like culture night or the Twelfth in Belfast," he said.

Councillor Brian Kingston revealed the DUP were minded to support the council proposal based on safety.

Following discussions, the council's health and safety officials said they will look at making changes to the parade which could alleviate current safety concerns. The council agreed on Mr Beattie's proposal.

Earlier in the evening, Sinn Fein and unionist councillors clashed over a presentation made to the committee about how the event can be improved overall.

One DUP councillor said the parade and concert was a "cold house" for unionists while other councillors criticised the report for failing to address how it can reach out to the unionist community.

Mr Beattie went on to accuse some councillors of racism and anti-Irishness.

UUP councillor Jeffrey Dudgeon said it was an "appalling insult" while DUP councillor Mr Kingston rejected Mr Beattie's comments.

Belfast Telegraph


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