Fears over St Patrick’s parade violence

THE chief executive of the St Patrick’s Festival in Dublin yesterday said urgent action was needed to prevent the parade being marred by drunken disorder or a repeat of the violence surrounding the ‘Love Ulster’ parade nine days ago.

Donal Shiels, speaking on RTÉ’s The Week in Politics, said it was time for action to be taken to combat public drunkenness around the March 17 activities.

A large number of drunken youths caused considerable trouble at last year’s parade, prompting garda authorities to ask off-licences in the city centre to shut their premises during the parade.

Strong anecdotal evidence has emerged suggesting those who were primarily responsible for fomenting the riot on O’Connell Street were groups of men, , who had been drinking in pubs surrounding the capital’s main thoroughfare.

The riots will also have implications for the planned 1916 commemoration on Easter Sunday.

Justice Minister Michael McDowell has said he will review security arrangements for all events planned for the city centre in light of the disturbances.

But it is expected that there will be a clampdown on public drinking on St Patrick’s Day, with off-licences and pubs in the city centre being asked to close their premises that morning.

At the St Patrick’s Day celebrations last year, ambulances were called to at least 25 drink-related incidents.

SDLP leader Mark Durkan yesterday said there was a danger of O’Connell St becoming a “theme park” for people airing every imaginable grievance.

He suggested that the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation, which met in the 1990s to allow the views and grievances of communities and parties both North and South to be expressed, should be reestablished.

Meanwhile, junior minister Síle de Valera yesterday expressed her admiration for IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands, whom she visited in the days before his death.

She told TV3’s The Political Party: “I think you would admire anyone who would have such strong a view as to go on hunger strike and follow that through. I think it’s important to remember, and Bobby Sands said it to us that day we were there, that he wasn’t just fighting for the demands of the republican prisoners at the time, but those demands should be followed through to those who were loyalist prisoners, and that’s something that’s always forgotten.”

Ms de Valera declined to say whether she thought a national commemoration for the hunger strikers would be appropriate.

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