Plans for the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day in Clonmel have been thrown into disarray with the news that the St. Patrick’s Well Committee won’t be involved in the organisation of this year’s parade.
Efforts to rescue the parade have been launched, with District Mayor Martin Lonergan inviting all interested groups and individuals to a public meeting in the Town Hall at 8pm on Monday night, January 19.
Meanwhile Sinead Carr, Manager of Clonmel Borough District said she would be amazed if there weren’t groups or people interested in organising a parade. “There’s still time”, she said.
The St. Patrick’s Well Committee (Cumann Tobar Naomh Padraig) announced on Sunday night that it had decided not to participate in the parade, which it had organised since 2002. The committee stated that the failure of Tipperary County Council to issue written confirmation on the extent of the funding and insurance cover for the parade was behind its decision, which it had taken with regret.
“The failure to confirm funding and insurance meant that no organisation of events or commitments to fund these could be proceeded with. Other St Patrick’s eve and day events, which the St Patrick’s Well Committee undertake, will take place as usual”, a statement from the group added.
Secretary PJ Long said the committee wasn’t prepared to organise a parade that would be a pale shadow of what it had been in previous years. “St. Patrick’s Day is only ten weeks away and there’s nothing in place”, he said.
He claimed that representatives of Clonmel’s twin town towns, traditional visitors on St. Patrick’s Day, hadn’t been contacted. Other aspects of the day, such as the organisation of the Eileen Anderson Unsung Hero Award and notification of road closures, hadn’t been put in place either.
“Waterford street theatre group Spraoi were the main attraction in last year’s parade but they haven’t been contacted yet and it’s not known if they’re even available at this stage”.
Mr. Long said that the committee had always worked well with Clonmel Borough Council, which was abolished last year. The committee received €8,000 from the Borough Council for the parade, a grant that was subsidised by the committee. The indications were that a similar level of funding would be available again this year but Mr. Long said that no definite figure would be known until the County Council’s budget was formally passed. He said the committee had no problem if another group wanted to take over the organisation of the event.
Borough District Manager Sinead Carr said that the committee, which was a voluntary group, had given a huge commitment over the years and working in partnership with the former Borough Council had done a very good job in organising the parade, one that was very much appreciated.
However she said she was disappointed with the committee’s reasons for pulling out and had hoped that the partnership and trust built up over the years would have stood for something. She said a verbal undertaking had been given that the level of funding for the parade would be broadly the same - subject to agreement by the council members - but said a commitment in writing couldn’t be given because that would be disrespectful to the process of the County Council’s budget and the members.
“The political landscape in the county has changed and the budget process has also changed”, said Ms Carr. She admitted that the budget process, which had yet to be completed, was very different and slightly more drawn out than before. She hoped that the St. Patrick’s Well committee would continue to work with the Council.
Ms Carr said a St. Patrick’s Day parade was criticial to the county town and the council was much committed to delivering a parade in Clonmel.
Similar sentiments have been expressed by District Mayor Martin Lonergan, who said he was fully supportive of the long-standing tradition of a St.Patrick’s Day Parade in Clonmel. He invited all civic, business and community groups to participate in the co-ordination of this year’s event and attend the open public meeting on January 19.
Cllr. Lonergan expressed his regret that the St. Patrick’s Well Committee had withdrawn from their role in the organisation of the parade. He thanked the committee for their dedicated and unwavering commitment to organising the event for many years and looked forward to a supporting role that they could play in the future.