Lord Mayor Kate Nicholl has spoken about what it means to see St Patrick’s Day celebrations returning to Belfast for the first time in three years.
The St Patrick’s Day festival, which this year takes place across 11 days from March 10-21, will be taking place for the first time since 2019.
The 2020 event was one of the first major events cancelled due to Covid fears, and marked one of the turning points in how Northern Ireland responded to the pandemic.
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This year’s event is set to be one of the biggest yet, with activities including a St Patrick’s Eve Concert, St Patrick’s Day Pageant Parade, St Patrick’s Season with Féile an Phobail, and St Patrick’s Day community project work.
Speaking about the festivities returning this year, Belfast Lord Mayor Kate Nicholl said: “I think it’s wonderful to see it back. It’s been such a tough couple of years. We all need a bit of normality and fun again and to remember all the good things about living in this city – and St Patrick’s Day is a celebration of all of that.
“This day is about communities and groups coming together. And the fact that it’s back, bigger and better than ever, is great. There’s lots of free-to-attend events and activities for people of all ages.”
Kate Nicholl was a councillor in Belfast City Council when the decision was made to cancel the festival in 2020. She said that it was the right decision in a time of great uncertainty.
“We had cancelled it in March 2020 and there was quite a lot of criticism amidst the uncertainty. There wasn’t really concrete advice yet, but Council took the decision to be cautious, and it was the right decision in the end.
Harper McCleary (3) joins Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Kate Nicholl, to welcome the return of Belfast’s St Patrick’s Day celebrations, running from 10-20 March.
“It’s amazing that it’s been two years, because there was so much uncertainty and fear at that time. But at the moment, there really is this sense of hope and optimism at the moment. So we’re going to harness that for the festival this year.”
St Patrick’s Day celebrations are big not just for tourism and for the footfall that they generate in the city, but also for what it means to creators and local communities here.
“I think it means a lot for a number of different groups in the city,” said Kate. “I think we’re starting to raise our ambitions in terms of celebrating this day n Belfast. It’s a day which is open to everyone. The Feilidh is organising the Trad Trail, which looks brilliant, and there’s numerous organisations bringing music to the city.
“I’m glad that we’re raising our ambition. It’s so important to so many people, as well as being a massive tourism drive.”
Asked what she’s personally looking forward to ahead of the 17th Kate Nicholl told us: “My son is two years old so he’ll be joining me for all my events. He’ll be with me for the Parade, and I’m looking forward to seeing St Patrick’s cape, it’s a patchwork made from all different community groups in the city.”
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