Northern Ireland news

No quality assessment carried out controversial St Patrick's Day parade

Stephen Fields and members of the West Armagh Consortium, pictured outside Armagh Cathedral, are calling for a decision to hold this year's St Patrick's Day parade in the city on March 16 to be reversed. Picture by Mal McCann.
Connla Young

A council which moved the date of the St Patrick's Day parade in Ireland's ecclesiastical capital from a Sunday because of unionist concerns did not carry out an equality impact assessment.

Some nationalists have raised concerns after it emerged the unionist-dominated Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council is planning to hold the parade through Armagh on Saturday March 16 - a day before the national saint's feast day.

The city is home to Catholic and Church of Ireland cathedrals both named after St Patrick.

It has now emerged that the council did not equality screen the decision before it was taken before Christmas.

A spokeswoman said: “The council is not aware of any equality implications and as such an equality impact assessment was not required."

The Equality Commission's website states: “If a policy shows a possible ‘adverse impact' on any group, the public authority must consider how this might be reduced.

“This would include how an alternative policy might lessen this effect and serve to promote equality of opportunity and good relations."

A community umbrella group has written to the council's chief executive Roger Wilson asking for the decision to be reversed.

Stephen Fields of the West Armagh Consortium, which represents 11 community groups, said the patron saint's day is celebrated across the globe on March 17.

“We are dismayed that here in Armagh, a city where two cathedrals bear his name and the ecclesiastical capital of Ireland, the council has decided to ignore that reality,” he said.

Mr Fields said community groups have posed several questions to the council chief, claiming some only learned about the date change when they were contacted by officials to take part in a float competition linked to the parade.

“This has added to local people's anger insofar as it displays an apparent disregard by the council for the views of the community in Armagh,” he said.

Mr Fields claimed the council has misread the mood of residents.

“For the council to think that such a move would not be contentious is absurd,” he said.

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