Livingstone promises a St Patrick's Day parade

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The Independent Online
KEN LIVINGSTONE has promised to give London a New York-style St Patrick's Day parade if he is successful in his bid to become the city's Mayor.

Mr Livingstone wants to close Edgware Road - which leads to Kilburn, the centre of London's Irish community - every 17 March to stage the parade He believes such an event could ultimately rival the Notting Hill Carnival on the capital's cultural calendar.

While the announcement was clearly an attempt to win green votes in the mayoral ballot, the idea was enthusiastically received yesterday by leaders of the capital's Irish community.

Mainland bombing campaigns by the IRA have in the past made open displays of Irishness a sensitive issue in British cities. Small St Patrick's Day parades now take place each year in Birmingham, Manchester and London but none can remotely compare with the spectacle of New York, where even the Hudson River has been dyed green for the day.

But Mr Livingstone believes that a revival of pride in being Irish, after decades of fear and denial caused by the Troubles, has made this the right time for the Irish community in London to come out and celebrate.

"In New York, St Patrick's Day is a major event for the whole city - a major attraction of tourist money," he told The Irish Post. "We should be doing the same thing here. You should start St Patrick's Day with a Mayoral Breakfast with all the main figures of the community. The Mayor should be on the parade.

"Close the Edgware Road for the day. You could have a huge great parade up there. In 1966, when there was the first Notting Hill Carnival, no one could have foreseen what it was growing into. Notting Hill Carnival attracts people from all over Europe and Britain to take part in it," he said. "A proper St Patrick's Day parade based on the sort of successes they have had in the States would be a major earner for local businesses, for tourism and help put London on the map."

Norah Casey, editor of The Irish Post, said that after years of it being difficult for Irish people to celebrate their culture and heritage it had become "Cool to be Green".

"We have no end of advertisements for beverages with misty-eyed Irish youths supping in pubs," she said. "Then there's Riverdance, The Corrs, B-Witched, Boyzone...."

But London's Parade should be more sophisticated than the New York's, concentrating on the culture, heritage and the arts, she said.