08 January 2006

Gay delight at rainbow shamrock


Henry McDonald, Ireland editor
Sunday January 8, 2006
The Observer

In a move designed to make St Patrick's Day a more neutral celebration, Belfast City Council is to ditch the traditional green shamrock with its republican connotations and introduce a multi-coloured version at this year's parade.

The council forgot, however, that the colours of the rainbow also make up the flag of the gay community across the world, prompting delight from the city's gay rights campaigners. Others accuse councillors of being 'politically correct' and 'daft'.

The rainbow shamrock, suggested by the St Patrick's Day Carnival Committee, is one of a series of changes instigated by City Hall. Irish tricolours, Glasgow Celtic tops and republican bands will not be welcome; the red-and-white Cross of the St Patrick flag will be.

James Knox, a policy director at the Belfast-based gay pressure group the Rainbow Project, described the shamrock colour change as 'hilarious, but also an opportunity.' It is said to be encouraging the gay community to apply to march in the parade on 17 March.

Sinn Fein councillors at City Hall said it would be 'brilliant' if the gay community joined the carnival.

But Ulster Unionist councillor Jim Rodgers, a former lord mayor of the city, called the rainbow Shamrock 'silly and politically correct'.

For the first time in its history Belfast City Council passed a motion last week calling for financial support for the carnival. A combination of Sinn Fein, SDLP and Alliance votes secured £100,000 for the festival's organisers. In return they agreed to a set of guidelines aimed at making the carnival more politically and culturally neutral.

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