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Coronavirus: Belfast St Patrick's Day parade cancelled

The annual St Patrick's Day parade in Belfast, due to take place next week, has been called off
Michael Kenwood

Belfast City Council has agreed to cancel this year’s Saint Patrick’s Day parade and concert, to deal with the spread of coronavirus.

Lord Mayor, Sinn Féin councillor Daniel Baker added a motion concerning the celebrations to a special council meeting on Monday originally tabled to debate the collapse of the Flybe airline.

It states: “Given the growing level of concern in regards to the Covid19 outbreak and developments in regards to a number of Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations throughout this island, Belfast City Council will postpone its Saint Patrick’s Day celebration as a precaution in the interest of public health and safety.”

The Lord Mayor said he had discussed the issue with a member of the Public Health Agency half an hour before the council meeting. He said: “While it was still their advice not to cancel events, they did understand the situation that we are in. They are in containment stage, however, this could change very quickly. Given Saint Patrick’s Day is ten days away, I felt it was a civic duty of mine to bring this forward today to the council.”

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24 councillors voted for the motion, with 2 against, and the rest abstaining.

Sinn Féin Councillor Ronan McLaughlin said: “What we need to do as a council is to make sure we do all that is in our power to contain this as much as possible.”

Sinn Féin, the Green Party, People Before Profit, Alliance and the SDLP supported the motion. An SDLP amendment was not supported, and several parties questioned the process by which the motion came to the council.

PUP Councillor John Kyle said his party had ‘concerns about the motion’. He said: “I think this is over-reach on the part of politicians. This is a decision that should rest with the Public Health Agency and the Chief Medical Officer. It’s a decision that experts should make and not politicians.” He said to the mayor: “I understand what you are doing and why you are doing it, and I am sure you have the best of motives, but it is not the Lord Mayor’s job to protect the residents of this city, it is Lord Mayor’s job to respond to the advice he is given by the experts, and then implement that advice.”

UUP Alderman Sonia Copeland : “I’m really not sure whether we are doing the right thing at this minute in time. Whatever message this council puts out there, we have to be very mindful that people will panic.” She added: “When they see we are going to pull Saint Patrick’s Day, they are going to be saying, do the council know more than we know? We have to be very mindful of the wording that goes out there.”

The DUP abstained from the vote.

The decision came on the same day that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced the cancellation of Saint Patrick’s Day parades across the Republic.

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