Following a public meeting held in Armagh on Wednesday night to discuss the council’s decision to move the St. Patricks Day parade from the 17th to 16th, plans are now afoot to organise a community parade. Approximately 100 people gathered in the West Armagh Consortiums Hall at Sherry’s Field to organise a community-based parade. Representatives of sporting clubs, community groups dance groups and representative from three political parties, SDLP, Sinn Fein and Alliance were among those that attended to lend their support and participation in the upcoming event.
Speaker after speaker spoke of their frustration at the council’s decision to ignore the community in having a say in this change of date. The meeting was chaired by Fiona Kelly, chairperson of the West Armagh Consortium who was assisted the Stephen Fields, the consortiums Community Development Programme Manager and its spokesperson on the issue. Commenting on recent media coverage of the issue Mr. Fields said that contrary to some slants being portrayed the issue is not a ‘storm in a teacup’ “Tonight’s meeting and this fantastic turnout is proof of that.” He went on to say “This community parade is not out of step with the council, as some have suggested but rather the council is out of step with the rest of the country and indeed the whole world who recognise March 17th as St. Patricks’ Day. The arguments use by those on ABC Council who are defending this decision do not stack up. A parade on the 17th will not restrict people ability to attend church services, what church services would be affected? “It will not necessarily be a further boost for local traders, in fact it some traders have said that it would deprive them of a Sunday trading opportunity. It is not the agreed opinion of all involved, had the council have taken the time to carry out a proper consultation then they would have found that out.”
A member of the audience reading from the councils’ own booklet released to promote the St. Patrick’s Festival said that according to council’s booklet that list all church services on the 17th , the only church service that a parade could possibly coincide with is a 3.15 pm service in CoI Cathedral. That event is a Choral Evensong.
The result of the meeting is that a 10-person strong steering group has been formed with the sole task of organising our St. Patricks Day parade. The group has already undertaken some immediate tasks involved in this, confirming the pledges of participation and liaising with these groups as well as widening the net to include more groups. The organisers have adopted a theme of inclusiveness for the parade encouraging groups from right across the whole community spectrum to attend. While the exact route of the parade has not been finalised, it is expected to follow the route of previous parades which with the exception of the start off point will be virtually the same route as the councils’ parade. That parade itself absorbed earlier community parades when the council finally began to recognise the Saint’s day.
Giving the short timeframe, the steering group have a challenging job ahead of them, but they are confident that with the support of the community that the St. Patricks ‘Day Parade in Armagh will be one to remember.