Northern Ireland news

Church bosses consulted on March 16 St Patrick's Day parade

Unionist dominated Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council will hold an annual St Patrick's Day event on Saturday March 16 this year
Connla Young

Catholic and Protestant Church leaders are understood to have been consulted about a decision by a unionist council to hold a St Patrick's Day parade a day early in Ireland's ecclesiastical capital.

Some nationalists have been critical after it emerged that Armagh city will host the parade on Saturday March 16 instead the national saint's day, which falls on a Sunday this year.

Armagh is home to Catholic and Church of Ireland cathedrals, both of which are named after Ireland's patron saint.

The parade has been organised by the unionist dominated Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council.

Sources say that council officials consulted Catholic and Protestant church authorities in Armagh about the parade.

A spokeswoman for the Catholic Church said: “The organisation of the Saint Patrick's Day parade is a matter for the local council.”

She added that Archbishop Eamon Martin will be in attendance at several events including a gathering of church congregations in the Shambles market on St Patrick's Day.

A spokesman for the Church of Ireland said it had “no comment to make regarding the timing of the march – this is clearly a matter for the Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council".

However, he added that following services at various churches on St Patrick's Day members of local congregations are being invited to the Shambles area of the city for “music, prayers and refreshments to celebrate the life of the real St Patrick”.

Sinn Féin councillor Garath Keating last night said he wants to secure the future of the parade.

“My interest is the St Patrick's Day parade happens next year and the year after when it's on a Tuesday, Friday or Wednesday,” he said.

"The more the discussion becomes a politically charged discussion the less likely we can have a sensible discussion around funding.”

Earlier this week DUP councillor Mark Baxter told the Irish News: “Our view is that it would be better on Saturday given strongly held views of people not being able to go to church because the town would be was closed off."

SDLP councillor Denise Mullen said some of her constituents who live in Co Armagh were “annoyed” by the decision.

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