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Wednesday, 9 February, 2000, 15:03 GMT
Legal challenge to St Pat's Day funding

Derry Apprentice Boys launch St Patrick festival Derry Apprentice Boys launch St Patrick festival

A decision by Belfast City Council not to fund a Saint Patrick's Day carnival is to be challenged in the High Court.

The carnival organisers have lodged papers seeking a judicial review of the council's decision.

An application for leave to proceed is due to be heard on Friday.

The application has been made by Catriona Ruane, chairperson of the St Patrick's Carnival Committee, which comprises a number of community organisations and also organises the west Belfast festival, Feile on Phobail.

The application says the council's decision was in breach of a lawful duty not to discriminate on religious or political grounds.

Belfast City Council refused funding because a majority of unionists on the council felt the carnival was not cross-community and was a republican celebration.

St Patrick's Day carnival organiser Catriona Ruane Catriona Ruane has been fund-raising privately
But the organisers have insisted the festival and parade are open to everyone.

Meanwhile, in Londonderry, a Protestant loyal order, the Apprentice Boys of Derry, have announced details of a special festival to celebrate Saint Patrick's Day on 17 March.

The organisation said they will hold a Saint Patrick's weekend festival to "reverse the Protestant community's increasing alienation from the patron saint".

Speaking to the BBC, governor of the Derry Apprentice Boys, Alistair Simpson said: "We hope to educate not only the Protestant people, but the nationalist people of this city that Saint Patrick was the main person who came to Ireland to bring Christianity.

"We have felt, and the Protestant people have felt, that it has been taken over by the nationalist population over the last 30 years.

"I remember when I was young, prior to the troubles, that Saint Patrick's Day was celebrated on an annual basis by the Protestant people."

Celebrating the patron saint of Ireland
Mr Simpson said debates about Saint Patrick involving Protestants and Catholics would be included in their festival.

"We will have a dance on the Friday night in the memorial hall and on the Friday and Saturday afternoon we have stalls selling country produce.

"On the Saturday afternoon we hope to have a debate by two historians, one from the north, a Protestant and one from the south, a Roman Catholic. They will debate what Saint Patrick is all about and we would hope then that we would have four prominent people of the city to debate that, two Protestants, two Roman Catholics."

Saint Patrick public holiday

The Apprentice Boys said that they had organised the festival to "work to the benefit of its own community while buildings bridges with others".

The announcement by the Apprentice Boys follows a decision taken on Monday by Northern Ireland assembly, to ask the government to make Saint Patrick's Day a public holiday in Northern Ireland.

However, the assembly faces suspension later this week over the arms crisis.

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See also:
07 Feb 00 |  Northern Ireland
Call for St Patrick's Day holiday
15 Jan 00 |  Northern Ireland
DUP rebuff parade invite
07 Feb 00 |  Northern Ireland
Assembly debate St Patrick's holiday

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