Relocate St Patrick’s - Albert Buttigieg
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Relocate St Patrick’s - Albert Buttigieg

St Patrick’s Day commemorates the saint and the Irish cultural heritage. St Paddy is a version of our local Maltese festa during which people come together to celebrate. 

Sadly though, the St Patrick’s Day celebration held recently in St Julian’s was once more a dreadful nightmare to many. It was another excuse to binge. Regrettably, it reinforces the culture of having fun through irresponsible consumption of alcohol. Pity that all alcohol awareness campaigns were thrown out of the window. I am sure that if the police enforced breathalyzer tests, they would have had a very busy night. 

But why bother? People came to have fun!

It is worth pointing out that throughout the year, St Julian’s residents have to endure not only the grave inconveniences from the daily construction blitz, the irresponsible behaviour of those who throng our streets but also the selfishness of particular commercial owners who are taking over our locality, including the pavements. 

Although our residents are gladly residing in a cosmopolitan environment, still the irresponsible and selfish behaviour of some are proving to be too much to endure.  

St Patrick’s Day is proving to be the breaking point. It has grown in popularity over the years and has become something of an annual bugbear for several who have to cope with closed-off roads and rowdy revellers.

It is important to underline that St Patrick’s Day is not a community-based event, such as our annual St Julian’s feast when the whole community comes together. It is purely a private commercial event with the sole intent of making money – lots of money.

We are not against people having fun, nor are we against any entertainment outlets. There is no crusade against anyone. What irks and aggravates us most is the utter disrespect shown. Some residents could not enter or leave their homes because of too many revellers blocking their entrances and having roads closed from the break of dawn. 

Others, in particular the elderly, had to endure loud music blaring till the early hours and further still others had to face unrestrained youths and clean their vomit/human waste from their doorsteps. 

Even the parish priest had to cancel the Sunday evening Mass! It’s shocking that all St  Julian’s and its residents were on hold to accommodate revellers.

Logistically, holding this annual event is definitely not feasible and dangerous... it has outgrown the locality

In a civilised society, no one ought to have this kind of fun at the expense of others.

Although the local council, bar owners and other stakeholders have drawn a coordinated effort to contain the influx of revellers, we need to be very honest with ourselves and admit that the situation is not tenable any more. Logistically, holding this annual event is definitely not feasible and dangerous... it has outgrown the locality. 

My firm personal opinion is that St  Patrick’s Day must relocate to a larger and safer venue. In as far as other festivals go, the beer festival, which used to be held in Ta’ Xbiex had to move to Ta’ Qali. 

This same action has to be taken for the St  Patrick’s event.

There are health/safety and crowd management issues to be considered. Can one imagine what would happen if someone had fallen sick in the middle of the crowd or if there was a mass stampede? 

It happened some time ago in Paceville and many were injured. St Patrick’s Day is a tragedy waiting to happen. 

I am sure that not everyone, in particular those with commercial vested interests, would agree and some would even drum the support of the powers that be. But this is not a pick-up fight with any particular bar owner but a firm stand for the common good.

What is the way forward?

My proposal is that St Julian’s residents ought to be given a chance to express their opinion on the matter in a locally held referendum. If we truly uphold democratic values, then we ought to listen to what the majority are saying. 

We need to uphold the interests of many rather than enabling those of the few. 

Sadly, our residents’ concerns are already not being acknowledged when it comes to mega developments. It is high time that residents are given a voice. 

As much as I am consistent and vociferous in voicing the residents’ concerns regarding unsustainable development and the commercialisation of our public spaces, I still stand tall to advocate on their behalf. 

I was elected deputy mayor to represent the interests of St Julian’s residents. Thus, it is my responsibility and my duty to safeguard and promote the interests of the many over the interests of the few. 

St Julian’s residents deserve better.

Albert Buttigieg is deputy mayor of St Julian’s and a local elections candidate representing the Nationalist Party.

This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece

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