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.
Ireland has brought in a raft of precautionary measures
against the spread of an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in
Britain, tightening defenses even further after a confirmed case
of the virus in Northern Ireland this week.
Passengers arriving at Dublin Airport walk over sanitised mats in the customs hall, before collecting their luggage, Thursday March 1, 2001, as part of the effort to contain the spread of foot and mouth disease.(AP Photo/John Cogill)
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
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