Unionists ‘harassed’ at council’s St Patrick’s Day discussion

Unionists expressed concerns at how Belfasts St Patricks Day celebrations have developed
Unionists expressed concerns at how Belfasts St Patricks Day celebrations have developed

Unionists have expressed disappointment following heated discussions about St Patrick’s Day celebrations in Belfast during a meeting of the city council on Wednesday night.

UUP councillor Jeff Dudgeon said he was disappointed at the way the discussion “degenerated” after unionists had expressed their concerns.

“I felt we were shouted at and harassed,” he said.

Councillors had been discussing proposals to cancel a popular concert at Custom House Square following safety concerns over the number of people expected to attend.

Instead, councillors agreed to task officials with exploring alternative ways to ease the crowd pressure on the Custom House Square event.

Discussions became heated, however, when unionists expressed concern with how the celebrations had developed in recent years.

PUP councillor John Kyle had said the celebrations were becoming a “cold house for unioinsts”.

Speaking to the News Letter, he explained: “St Patrick’s Day has the potential to bring all sides of the community together. He is a saint who is held in high esteem in both the Protestant tradition and the Catholic tradition.

“It could be something that could really enhance the cultural life of Belfast but if it becomes too much of a celebration of all things Irish that sends a negative message to people from a unionist background.”

Mr Dudgeon said: “If the whole thing becomes entirely a one-sided operation it loses its effect and denies the purpose of St Patrick as a Christian saint in Ireland.

“In truth it is triumphalism. There is a danger that it becomes an ‘it’s our city now’ attitude and that has a seriously negative effect.”