Margaret Ritchie MP Hosts Visit of Secretary of State
SPEAKING after NI Secretary of State Theresa Villiers MP visited Downpatrick, which concentrated on the St Patrick sites and the early Christian heritage trail, Margaret Ritchie, MP for South Down, said: “I am very pleased that the Secretary of State accepted my invitation to visit South Down. On this visit, as we approach St Patrick’s Day, it was appropriate that the Secretary of State visit the main St Patrick sites and the St Patrick Tourism trail in Downpatrick and Lecale.
“The story of St Patrick is one of reconciliation and bringing the community together. The legend of Patrick, how he began and ended his ministry in Downpatrick, has a lot to offer the community in both an ecclesiastical and unifying sense. It also offers the community opportunities as we look to the future of the local economy, and how we must pursue the growth of our tourism industry in order to sustain and grow our local economy.”
During her visit the Secretary of State visited the St Patrick’s Centre, and met the Chairman of the Centre, John Carson. They then visited St Patrick’s Grave and Down Cathedral meeting Dean Henry Hull, and also went to Saul Church and Struell Wells. At each of the public sites, the Secretary of State saw how recent investment by the NIEA, NITB and Down Council had resulted in improvements for visitors.
“We have made progress in developing the St Patrick Tourism trail.” added Ms Ritchie, However, I have no doubt that the strength of the Patrick story means that we can achieve much more. I very much hope that this will be the first of the Secretary of State’s visits to South Down and I hope to bring her to the Mournes on her next visit to see the great tourism assets there and to visit community projects in the area.”
In 2012 Margaret Ritchie launched a product development plan for St Patrick tourism for the Downpatrick area. It was assisted by Eddie McGrady, Michel McKernan and the late Peter Craig, Dr Brian Turner, members of the clergy and Down District Council and the St Patrick Centre.
In the launch booklet Ms Ritchie quoted former Irish President Mary McAleese who visited the St Patrick Centre who said:
“No other country in the world ha such a masterful marketing tool as the Irish have in St Patrick. If you tried to recreate such a tool today, I would hate to think of the billions that would have to be expended in being able to put that name across the world.”
Ms Ritchie said that no other place in the world could claim to have such strong connections with St Patrick, and that there was huge tourism potential in St Patrick-related tourism.