Unionist council to hold St Patrick's Day parade on Saturday 16th
The St Patrick's Day parade in the ecclesiastical capital of Ireland will be held on a Saturday because of unionist concerns about holding the celebrations on a Sunday.
Armagh City is planning to host a major parade on Saturday March 16 instead of the national saint’s day - which this year falls on a Sunday.
Armagh is home to Catholic and Church of Ireland cathedrals which are both named after Ireland's patron saint.
Major parades in other key centres across Ireland, including Dublin, Derry and Belfast will be held on St Patrick’s Day.
An annual parade will also take place on Sunday March 17 in Downpatrick – the reputed burial place of the saint.
The Armagh parade has been organised by Armagh City, Banbridge and Criagavon Borough Council as part of a series of event to mark the saint’s day.
It is understood the Armagh parade was initially discussed during a behind closed doors council meeting before Christmas.
DUP councillor Mark Baxter said: “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."
He said there were complaints about previous St Patrick's parades on a Sunday.
Sinn Féin councillor Kevin Savage said that while “there is understandable concern in the community about it and people have the right to be aggrieved” there was a desire to see an inclusive event.
He said it was clear “that a lot of groups (would) not able to take part in the parade if it was on a Sunday”.
It is understood a funding package previously agreed by the council to fund St Patrick’s Day events is up for renewal this year.
Posting on Facebook Armagh Sinn Féin councillor Garath Keating said his “initial inclination” was to boycott the parade but added “the difficulty there is how that approach will assist matters for future years”.
And he added: “St Patrick's Day only falls on a Sunday once more between now and 2030. Why leave an open goal for people who would happily slash the funding given half an excuse.”
SDLP councillor Denise Mullen, who represents people who live in the Blackwatertown area of Co Armagh, said people are "annoyed."
“These people are disappointed it’s on the 16th just to please one side of the community.”
A spokeswoman for the council said the "council agreed that Saturday 16 March would be the most appropriate, workable date for the procession this year, ensuring the broadest constituency of participation and access from right across the whole community and providing everyone with a full opportunity to show their support."