Controversy over Newry St Patrick's Day tricolour ban
The banning of the Irish tricolour at the St Patrick's Day parades in Newry and Downpatrick has sparked fresh controversy.
It follows a row over a similar ban by Derry City and Strabane District Council, which said it wanted no flags or emblems to ensure its parades in the city and in Strabane were cross-community and family-focused.
Newry, Mourne and Down District Council has made a similar ruling for its March 17 events planned for the city and Downpatrick.
Republican group Saoradh said it had received complaints from bands due to take part in the Newry parade.
Saoradh's Stephen Murney told the Newry Democrat that he was contacted by a representative of the Banna Fliuit Naoimh Phadraig insisting it will not take part in the parade unless the ban is lifted.
"They informed me that they had phoned the council to enquire if the flute band could carry the tricolour in this year's parade in Newry," he said.
"Not only were they told that they are banned from carrying our national flag, but they were also told that the flag of the four provinces would also be banned. Banna Fliuit Naoimh Phadraig have quite rightly told the council that unless the ban is lifted they won't be taking part.
"This is outrageous and is clearly an attempt to suppress and erode any display of Irish culture and heritage in the Saint Patrick's Day parade."
Newry, Mourne and Down District Council said all entrants and participants in the council's St Patrick's Day parades in Newry and Downpatrick had committed to comply with the council's rules and conditions of entry.
It added: "The rules and conditions of entry, which have been used by both legacy councils, Down District and Newry and Mourne District, and now Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, do not name specific flags, emblems, music, behaviour etc which are banned.
"The council aims to encourage self-regulation, where participants begin to reflect upon the impact of their actions on others taking part, and work towards developing an inclusive and welcoming environment.
"While council has not been prescriptive in naming specific flags, emblems, music, behaviour etc, content, context, intent and potential impact upon other participants and spectators are primary factors which must be given serious consideration by all entrants and participants.
"Participants must therefore be mindful that the council reserves, in its absolute discretion, the right to reject at any stage an entrant on such grounds as the council shall see fit to consider without any obligation to disclose such grounds."
The council added: "In the event of refusal of an entry for the parade, such entry shall be deemed to have been withdrawn."