14/05/2010

Marathon To Run On Bank Holiday

In spite of pressure from various sides, the 2011 Belfast City Marathon will not be held on a Sunday.

It was agreed at a City Council meeting this week that it would continue on May Day, after over plans to move the race from its traditional May Day Bank Holiday to the prior Sunday were opposed.

All of the five political parties represented on Belfast City Council's Development Committee agreed that the issue would be postponed for a year, therefore guaranteeing it would be held on the usual Monday in 2011.

Former PSNI Chief Constable, Sir Hugh Orde started the debate two years ago when he questioned the cost-effectiveness of staging the event on the May Day Bank Holiday when his police officers were entitled to double their usual hourly rate.

The Sunday idea has also been backed by Translink, the Department for Regional Development and Belfast City Centre Management.

The event's key organising partner, Athletics Northern Ireland, would also be in favour of the switch to a Sunday.

However, Christians and churchgoers hit out as they say a Sunday event will disrupt weekly services in the estimated 40 churches along the 26-mile route, as well as effectively barring from taking part committed Sabbatarians.
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Development Committee Chairman, DUP Councillor William Humphrey said on BBC Radio Ulster that the marathon organisers must consult widely with all affected groups before a decision could be taken on the issue.

He said the committee had tasked an officer to consult with the marathon committee to express its views.

"The concept of the idea of running the marathon on a Sunday must be postponed to allow the committee to have a consultation process and consult with everyone including the churches," he said.

"But I can say that next year, the marathon will be held on the Bank Holiday Monday again."

He later confirmed that Belfast City Council has now formally requested that the Belfast Marathon Company ensures that the "most robust consultation exercise possible" will be undertaken in relation to proposals to move running of the annual Belfast City Marathon to a Sunday.

"The Belfast City Marathon and its partners must ensure that the full impact of any change on all relevant communities is fully assessed, and that any decision takes full cognizance of all equality issues. We must work to ensure that the Belfast City Marathon remains an inclusive event.

"It is important that this council be seen to treat all the communities in our city equally - and not least to ensure that the Marathon, one of the most successful events of its kind, is fully inclusive for all those who wish to take part in it," concluded Councillor Humphrey on Thursday.

(BMcC/GK)

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