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Caribbean islanders vow not to let pandemic scupper virtual carnival plans

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People during the national holiday of St Patrick’s Day in previous years on the Caribbean island Montserrat

People during the national holiday of St Patrick’s Day in previous years on the Caribbean island Montserrat

People during the national holiday of St Patrick’s Day in previous years on the Caribbean island Montserrat

It’s known as the Emerald Isle of the Caribbean and organisers of the remote island of Montserrat’s St Patrick’s Day celebrations have vowed not to let Covid-19 scupper their plans.

Montserrat is the only territory outside Ireland where March 17 is a national holiday.

The sun-kissed island’s long-running Afro-Irish carnival is usually the busiest time of the year for tourism, attracting throngs of visitors.

But this St Patrick’s Day, for the first time ever, the island will remain closed off to tourists as efforts are maintained to keep a lid on Covid outbreaks.

Montserrat emerged from a three-week lockdown late last month following a handful of outbreaks.

And the island’s government said it’s taking no chances by opening up its borders to this year’s celebrations.

However, Montserrat Arts Council said this year’s eight-day carnival, which is virtual and which kicked off last Friday, will be no less colourful than past St Patrick’s-themed activities.

Kenneth Silcott, director of Montserrat Arts Council, said: “The pandemic is real, it is important that we safeguard our citizens and follow all government of Montserrat protocols and guidelines.

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“That being said, the Montserrat Arts Council must make every effort to preserve our traditions and cultural heritage.”

Volcano-dominated Montserrat’s Irish connection began when Catholic dissidents moved from nearby St Kitts.

By 1678 they were the majority in a population of 3,674 that included 992 enslaved Africans. In 1768, the slaves organised a rebellion on St Patrick’s Day, believing their masters would be too drunk to fight back.

However, the plot was leaked and nine slaves were hanged.

The British Overseas Territory’s St Patrick’s Day celebrations were originally held in the slaves’ honour and it was declared a public holiday in 1984.

Immensely proud of its Irish heritage and home to a population of less than 5,000 people, visitors to the 50sqkm island get their passports stamped with a shamrock.


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