DUBLIN'S four-day St Patrick's Festival has been postponed.
As the country is gripped by the threat of a possible foot-and-mouth epidemic the Board of the premier St Patrick's Day celebrations decided unanimously to cancel the events on the March 17 weekend. But they may be held on another date.
"This is not a time for celebration, and there was no way we could police the events to ensure that foot-and-mouth would not spread here," said Festival chief executive Maria Moyinhan.
Late last night, Tourism Minister Dr Jim McDaid said the decision to postpone the festival was inevitable in the light of the compelling circumstances.
"The possibility of foot-and-mouth disease spreading to the Republic threatens our economic security and the livelihood of our farmers, the agri-food sector and potentially virtually every citizen, and it was on this basis that my colleague the Minister for Agriculture Joe Walsh called for the cancellation of parades throughout the country," he said.
The minister said that Bord Failte and the tourism industry has for years used the St Patrick's Festival to help extend our tourist season.
"In that context the postponement of the Festival is very disappointing though unavoidable. However our tourism industry can be assured that one we have the all clear our promotional drives will resume with renewed vigour," he added.
The postponement of the four days and nights of celebration and fun for the national feast day will have immediate economic implications for Dublin businesses, hoteliers and event organisers.
Already the St Patrick's Day festival board has spent most of its £1.3m allocation in deposits and booking fees for the 5,000 performers who were travelling to Dublin for four days of fun, music and enjoyment.
Stressing that the Festival is postponed and not cancelled, Ms Moyinhan said that she and her board would now begin working on an alternative set of dates to hold the St Patrick's celebrations.
The four day St Patrick's festival usually generates up to £35m for Dublin.
This morning the festival committee begins contacting all parade participants, tourism organisations, and sponsors, to tell them of the postponement.