Unionists should ‘recover’ St. Patrick’s Day says former PUP man

Belfast Councillor John Kyle, who resigned from the Progressive Unionist Party last month, has told fellow council members unionism has to “recover” St Patrick’s Day.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 13th January 2022, 12:17 pm
Updated Thursday, 13th January 2022, 12:25 pm
A previous St Patrick's Day parade in Belfast
A previous St Patrick's Day parade in Belfast

At this month’s full meeting of Belfast City Council, Councillor Kyle, who now stands as an Independent Unionist representative for the Titanic electoral area, was praising a new approach agreed by the council for future celebrations, beginning this year.

He told the chamber: “The Saint Patrick’s Day celebration does have great potential for the city, both for enhancing the cultural life of the city, and also in securing better community relations. So it is an important element of our city life.”

He added: “I know we have had some difficulties in the past with the Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations, but there is evidence that more groups are looking to become involved in this event. I know that further development work is necessary, and in fact is being planned and funded, and I welcome that.”

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He said: “It is worth saying in past times, unionist culture recognised and celebrated Saint Patrick’s Day. It was a part of the annual events: the Rugby Schools Cup final was on Saint Patrick’s Day, some of the Irish regiments recognised it, indeed the Orange Order at one time recognised Saint Patrick’s Day.

“So it is something I think we need to recover, and we need to encourage full participation in the Saint Patrick’s Day celebration. These developments in the council’s Cultural Strategy do provide for more outreach work, and for more development work. They provide for more longer term planning, and they will reap rich rewards, and create a truly inclusive celebration from which the city can benefit.”

The council’s ten-year cultural strategy, “A City Imagining” outlines a new approach in delivering St. Patrick’s Day events from 2022 onwards with a three-stage process being used to assess applications to deliver pilot projects this year.

A council report recommends the commissioning of Beat Carnival and The Duncairn, to deliver pilot projects in March 2022 with funding of £100,000 and £80,000 respectively. Féile an Phobail and the event management company MayWe will also be involved. 

In December Councillor Kyle resigned from the PUP claiming “differing approaches” with the party on how to face the Northern Ireland Protocol element of the Brexit trade agreement.

He faced criticism within the party after appearing on BBC’s The View programme in November, in which he highlighted potential benefits of the Protocol if it was altered.

Councillor Kyle himself said in a resignation statement “My own view, shared by many other unionists, is that we need a twin track approach that seeks fundamental reform of the Protocol while looking to exploit opportunities created by Northern Ireland’s unique position”.

The PUP said his comments were “not the position of the party” and stressed that the Northern Ireland Protocol “must go”. Billy Hutchinson is the only remaining PUP representative in Belfast council.

John Kyle has been a Belfast councillor since 2007 when he was co-opted following the death of former party leader David Ervine.

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