Published on Friday, March 2, 2001 by Reuters
Foot and Mouth Disease
Ireland Calls Off St. Patrick's Day Celebrations
by Kevin Smith
Ireland has called off its national St.
Patrick's Day celebrations due to fears over foot-and-mouth
disease, organizers said on Friday.
The annual national holiday on March 17, to mark the death of Ireland's patron saint, traditionally attracts some 1.3 million people to the streets of the Irish capital Dublin for a four-day festival of music, street theater, and parades.
``This will have tremendous knock-on effects, but it's the disappointment most of all,'' said Maria Moynihan, chief executive of Dublin's St. Patrick's Festival Board.
St. Patrick's Day -- the largest event in Ireland's national calendar -- is the latest casualty in a long list of canceled public activities after most of the country's sporting fixtures were scratched following pleas from the government.
Moynihan said the decision to call off the celebrations had been a very tough one to make but insisted all efforts would be made to hold the festival later in the year.
``It's not practical to speculate when -- what we're saying now is that it's no time to have a party or a festival, but that when we're out of the other side of this crisis it will be time to have a party,'' she said on Irish state radio.
Some 5,000 bands were due to participate in the Dublin parade, 2,000 of them from the United States, she said.
``Most of these would have been U.S. high school kids who have been planning for this for the last three years -- it's the biggest trip of their life,'' she said.
The implications for Ireland's tourism industry were enormous with the four-day festival -- this year on March 16-19 -- usually generating up to 35 million Irish pounds for hoteliers and restaurateurs in Dublin alone. St. Patrick's Day is also a major celebration in the United States, where around 40 million people -- or 15 percent of the population -- can trace their roots back to Ireland.
More than 10,000 people are expected to travel to America from Ireland to participate in festivities held chiefly in New York, Boston, and New Orleans.
Copyright 2001 Reuters