Tuesday 23 April 2019

Future of March parade in doubt

Chamber of Commerce says it can no longer run Paddy's Day Parade

Paddy Malone.
Paddy Malone.
2018 Parade Grand Marshal Eve McCrystal at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade held in Dundalk. Picture: Ken Finegan

Margaret Roddy

A question mark hangs over the future of Dundalk's 2019 St Patrick's Day parade this week after Dundalk Chamber of Commerce issued a statement saying they would no longer be able to take on the responsibility of organising the event.

Chamber PRO Padddy Malone said: 'It is with great regret that we must now publicly announce that Dundalk Chamber of Commerce cannot support, plan, coordinate, manage and clear up after the St Patrick's Day parade.'

He claimed that numerous attempts by the Chamber to raise the issue with Louth County Council and other bodies had proven unsuccessful.

In response to a query from The Argus, Louth County Council issued a statement saying that 'following a recent letter to the Chief Executive from the president of the Dundalk Chamber of Commerce regarding the 2019 event, the Chief Executive would be happy to host a round table meeting of interested stakeholders at the council offices, to allow the Chamber of Commerce to raise its concerns and to have them discussed.'

The local authority pointed out that it had contributed to the successful parade 'in many ways' including financial support.

However, the Chamber of Commerce says that 'when the parade was restarted a committee was formed to act as a central point to facilitate all the different stakeholders and to plan and manage the parade. Dundalk Chamber of Commerce initially undertook to chair this committee and to coordinate the efforts of all the participants. These included the local authority, BIDS, representatives of the main shopping centres and sports and community groups amongst others.'

'Each year there have been fewer and fewer willing to commit the time and effort required to plan and manage the parade. For the last two years we have finally reached the stage where the Chamber of Commerce has been left to manage the parade without help.'

He pointed out that 'planning the event, raising the sponsorship and managing the routing, permissions and coordination both on the day and after the event have become more and more complex and time-consuming as the event has grown.'

An added complication for next year's event is the planned redevelopment works in Clanbrassil Street, which 'would require a completely new planning and routing for the parade, if it is even possible to hold a parade.'

The increasing scale of the parade has demanded more and more effort each year and it was only due to the trojan efforts of a small team of volunteer members of the Chamber that they were able to do it. As these people had now changed their roles, they would not be able to run the event next year.

He said that the Chamber 'have attempted to raise this issue with the Local Authority, as the body with the greatest reach, and with other parties on many occasions since April 2018 and have had no response despite repeated contacts. There have been no other participants willing to step up and help or take on some of the roles which are needed to plan and manage an event of this scale.'

'It is with great regret that we must now publicly announce that Dundalk Chamber of Commerce cannot support, plan, coordinate, manage and clear up after the St Patrick's Day parade,' he stated.

No other Chamber of Commerce in the country had to take responsibility for organising a St Patrick's Day parade, he stressed, saying that the organisation's role was 'to act as an advocacy and support group for business and enterprise in Dundalk and its environs.'

'It was never the role of the Chamber to act as Event Managers for public events of this scale. No other Chamber of Commerce in the country runs or manages the St Patrick's day parades or major other public events.'

However, he stressed that the Chamber 'is more than willing to participate in any committee formed to plan and run the parade and will happily contribute our experience and the knowledge we have gained. We welcome any intervention and will support any initiative to continue the great work which has been done to date.'

The Argus