There has been a lot of community reaction to the announcement that Armagh Banbridge Craigavon Borough Council has decided to cancel their St.Patricks' Day Parade in favour of a 'Procession' to be held on March 16th. Following the announcement the West Armagh Consortium, an umbrella group representing 11 community-based groups in Armagh City has written to the Chief Executive of Armagh City Banbridge Craigavon Borough Council requesting an urgent reversal of the councils’ decision to move the civic parade from the worldwide recognised date of St. Patricks’ Day 17th March to the 16th March.
In their letter to the council’s Chief Executive Mr. Roger Wilson the West Armagh Consortium has conveyed the dismay of community-based groups to the councils’ decision and have asked for a rationale for the move.
The West Armagh Consortium has argued that St. Patricks’ Day is recognised the world over and celebrated on March 17th. Civic parades take place in cities and towns all across Ireland and further afield. We are dismayed that here in Armagh, a city where two cathedrals bear his name and the ecclesiastical capital of Ireland, that the council has decided to ignore that reality.
In our letter to the councils’ Chief Executive the West Armagh Consortium has asked a number of questions raised by community groups at a meeting held on Tuesday night. They include:
1. ‘Why has the decision been taken to move the St Patricks Day Parade / Procession from its normal date of the 17th March to the 16th March 2019.
2. ‘When was this decision was taken.
3. ‘Whether the decision was put to the full vote of Council or whether it was decided in Committee. We note that it has been suggested that the decision-making process was held confidentially and was therefore not open to public scrutiny. We ask you to confirm if the decision-making process was indeed carried out secretly.
4. ‘Given that we (West Armagh Consortium) as key stake holders in the community were not consulted in any way in relation to this proposal can the council confirm the nature of the consultation process (if any) used by the council prior to coming to this decision.
5. ‘Had the full impact of moving the Parade /Procession date been considered adequately (if at all) by the council. We would ask you to confirm whether a full impact assessment was carried out in relation to the impact this move would have on local retailers and businesses.
In conclusion the meeting held on Tuesday night was in response to concerns raised by community groups. The council’s decision is being viewed as a disgraceful decision to move the recognised date of St. Patricks Day.
Many groups only learned of the move when invited by the council to take part in the float competition, held as part of its ‘procession’. This has added to local peoples’ anger insofar as it displays an apparent disregard by the council for the views of the community in Armagh. Groups argue that if the council had no trouble in contacting them to take part in the parade/procession, then why could community groups not have been contacted prior to the abandoning of March 17th as St. Patrick’s Day, to ascertain their opinions on this proposal.
For the council to think that such a move would not be contentious, is absurd. During the tenure of the Armagh City and District Council a similar idea proved to be controversial. On that occasion the matter was resolved in the council where there was an equal divide between nationalist and unionist councillors and the parade when ahead on St. Patricks’ Day.