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Substantial funding secured for Armagh’s St Patrick’s celebrations

Future plans to celebrate St Patrick’s Day with a special festival has been secured.

After earlier funding worries led to Tourism NI withdrawing the money for this year’s event, the former Armagh City and District Council was forced to pay out and press ahead with its usual celebrations, which were an overwhelming success.

Georgian Day was also under threat but Armagh I recently reported that a substantial funding package had been agreed to allow it to go ahead.

And now Tourism NI has offered another fantastic cash pay-out, close to £300,000, which will secure a festival, of an international standard, for the next three years.

The new Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council has accepted the offer.

It will form part of a major international festival, linking Armagh, which was the site of St Patrick’s first church, built in 445AD, and Downpatrick, which is reportedly the patron saint’s final resting place.

Last August, Armagh I first revealed that Armagh was hoping to play a lead role in the creation of an international festival celebrating St Patrick and Northern Ireland’s Christian heritage.

A high level paper was being prepared on the festival plan, which would be seen as ‘globally unique’, and Armagh City and District Council was excited about the potential.

Preparatory work was undertaken to develop a sustainable international festival, a project initiated by a public sector consortium, comprising the former local authorities of Ards, Armagh, Ballymena, Down, Newry & Mourne, North Down and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.

Tourism specialists BTS were appointed to prepare the business case for the festival and submit the project to Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB) for event funding.

The overall goal of the project was: To develop a compelling, self-sustaining, authentic celebration that builds on the existing events and activities undertaken to date in communities;  To celebrate St Patrick, St Patrick’s Day and NI’s Christian heritage; Establish an internationally attractive festival.

St Patrick and Christian Heritage are iconic elements of NI’s cultural identity. The project partners want to find a way to capitalise on these elements to enhance the promotion of NI to ‘out-of-state’ audiences, increase international visitors and generate economic benefit in their local areas.

NITB established an International Tourism Events Fund as part of the Tourism 2020 strategy.

The festival will take place, as in Armagh previously, over a number of days either side of March 17.

Funding of £79,000 has been secured for next year, with £115,000 in 2017 and £99,000 in 2018.

Picture: Rosie McCool pictured at a previous St Patrick’s Day promotion in Armagh. Picture by Conor Greenan.

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