Unionists councillors stayed away from Northern Ireland’s biggest cross-community St Patrick’s Day parade in Downpatrick yesterday for the first time.
DUP and Ulster Unionist councillors were boycotting the parade because was being held on a Sunday for the first time.
DUP councillor William Dick said it was “insensitive” to hold the parade on a Sunday. He said many Protestants would not be taking part or attending because it is being held on the Sabbath.
“This is a carnival parade and it is not appropriate to hold it on a Sunday,” said Mr Dick.
“I believe it was wrong of the SDLP and Sinn Fein to to go head with this on a Sunday against the stated wishes of the two main church leaders in the town from the Catholic Church and Church of Ireland.”
But Sinn Fein’s Eamonn Mac Con Midhe pointed out that the vast majority of local people favour the St Patrick’s Day parade taking place yesterday.
“Traders were consulted and they favour this date,” said Mr Mac Con Midhe.