St Patrick's Day celebrations could be cut short in saint's home of Downpatrick

The site of St Patrick's grave in Downpatrick. Pic Presseye
St Patrick's Day celebrations Credit: UTV

By Donal McMahon, local democracy reporter

St Patrick's Day celebrations in the town where Ireland's patron saint is said to be buried look to be the latest casualty of Stormont cuts.

Executive funding cuts to good relations fund has resulted in no cash being allocated to St Patrick's Day events in Downpatrick. Newry, Mourne and Down District Council's (NMDDC) active and health committee heard this week, that 53% cuts to financial assistance from the District Council Good Relations Programme (DCGRP) would mean reduced delivery of multiple community services.

It now also means that there will be no funds from the DCGRP, a Stormont Executive programme, going to the council's St Patrick's Day events in Downpatrick.

Downpatrick Alliance representative, Andrew McMurray said: "Reading through (committee report) it makes for some really depressing reading.

"Some of the things that are being cut back on from the Good Relations Programme budget, such as diversionary and intervention programmes, no allocation for reactionary programmes and no allocation for St Patrick's Day events in Newry and Downpatrick.

"Some of these things are the real bread and butter of our DEA (district electoral areas) forums and what our coordinators do.

"Our DEA coordinators are putting things together on a shoe string and getting things done, which has to be commended.

"I just really want to know what else council officers are doing to try and re-address some of this loss or lack of funding?

"Are there any third party philanthropic organisations that can make up the shortfall.

"It's a sign of the times and all the rest of it, but it is just terribly disappointing."

The committee report further highlighted that the Executive Office has advised the budgetary position is unlikely to increase in the 2024/25 financial year.

A council officer responded: "Unfortunately, the situation is unlikely to improve in the foreseeable future.

"We are coming in to our own rates process, so we will be looking closely at our own budget.

"But talking to the officers who work in the DEA forum, what we are talking about is really collaboration with our partners and that seems to be the way forward.

"Everyone is getting a squeeze in budget so it is about working together with what little resources there are to deliver on the ground and that's all we can do, and try to share the burden."

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