UNIONISTS are opposing plans to invite incoming US president Joe Biden to visit South Down to trace his local roots.
Newry, Mourne and Down Council is to invite Mr Biden to visit the area after he takes office in the White House as the 46th President of the United States.
But the DUP and independent unionists on the Newry-based council are opposing the move, with some threatening to boycott any visit by the president-elect.
They have accused Mr Biden of "bigotry" over his attitude to the Orange Order.
However, Sinn Fein, SDLP and Alliance members of the council has agreed to throw out the welcome mat, working with neighbouring Louth County Council to ask Mr Biden to return to his roots and visit when he becomes US president.
Alliance councillor Patrick Brown said that given Mr Biden's "strong ancestral links" to the area, there is every possibility that he will visit Ireland at some point.
He pointed out that Mr Biden's great grandfather, James Finnegan, emigrated from the port of Newry in 1850 for New York.
"Mr Biden is fiercely proud of his Irish heritage and has close ties with the Cooley area of Co Louth," he said. "What better place for the incoming president to visit than our district to trace his ancestral routes?"
However, Independent Unionist councillor Henry Reilly has vowed to stage a protest and organise a boycott if Mr Biden comes to South Down.
"I am very concerned about his attitude to unionists in Northern Ireland because he is on record to Enda Kenny saying, 'If you are Orange you are not welcome in my house'," said Mr Reilly.
DUP councillor Glynn Hanna described Mr Biden as a "divisive character".
Mr Biden was vice-president when on St Patrick's Day, 2015, he greeted then taoiseach Enda Kenny at his home in Washington by quipping: "Anyone wearing orange is not welcome in here".
The vice-president smiled and added a few seconds later: "Only joking".
But the quip was branded "disgraceful" by the DUP who urged him to apologise.