Deenihan admits ‘we can do better’ on St Patrick’s festival

Fianna Fáil says organisers should look to enthusiasm and vigour of Fleadh Ceoil

Minister for Heritage Jimmy Deenihan (centre) with performers at the launch of the    St. Patricks Festival’s ‘I Love my city’ programme this week. The Minister rejected claims that the festival was ‘soulless’.   Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Minister for Heritage Jimmy Deenihan (centre) with performers at the launch of the St. Patricks Festival’s ‘I Love my city’ programme this week. The Minister rejected claims that the festival was ‘soulless’. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Thu, Mar 6, 2014, 15:03

Minister for Heritage Jimmy Deenihan has rejected claims that the St Patrick’s Day festival is “soulless”.

He has however acknowledged that “we can do better”.

Mr Deenihan told the Dáil he would be holding a meeting in April after the festival, with Culture Ireland, Tourism Ireland and the Department of Foreign Affairs “towards really establishing an international programme”.

The Minister also said they could “probably improve the quality of our parades right across the country” but added that they had to recognise “the major effort schools and arts organisations are making in creating floats and making very attractive parades”.

He was responding to Fianna Fáil heritage spokesman Seán Ó Fearghaíl who raised the recent criticism by Dublin Lord Mayor Oisín Quinn that as well as being “soulless” the festival was “lacking in ambition”.

Mr Ó Fearghaíl described the mayor’s criticism as “stringent”, particularly about the closing off of Merrion Square for a funfair, which Mr Quinn described as “something that was about raising money rather than celebrating our Irishness and the best of what it is to be Irish”.

Mr Ó Fearghaíl asked “can we do better” and “infuse something of the spirit of the great Fleadh Ceoil, which is probably our principal cultural event” into the St Patrick’s Day festival and its “success, enthusiasm and vigour”.

The Minister said “we are doing quite well and using St Patrick’s day not only as a celebration of our Irishness but also as a platform to do other cultural events as well both at home and internationally”.

He said “there’s no other country in the world that gets as much attention as Ireland on St Patrick’s day, there’s no comparable festival”.

Culture Ireland funding was reduced because they wanted to spend it on local organisations and events for which €250,000 had been provided.