Special Status Of St Patick’s Parade in Downpatrick Is Defended

Local Newry Mourne and Down District Councillors have successfully defended the special status of Downpatrick’s St Patrick’s Day Parade in the face of suggestions by some Newry Councillors that Newry as a City ought to have parity with the St Patrick’s Parade in Downpatrick.

The popular St Patrick's day parade draws around 25,000 people into Downpatrick.
The popular St Patrick’s day parade draws around 25,000 people into Downpatrick.

Councillors Patrick Brown and Cadogan Enright who head up the 6-person Independent / Alliance Group in Council were delighted that their group led the charge to ensure that the additional funding from Council and from Tourism NI was not lost to Newry. Additional funding had also been secured by Council officers for the Newry event itself.

Alliance Councillor Patrick Brown who is an Assembly candidate in May’s Stormont election said: “Downpatrick has a strategic place on the tourism map with Saint Patrick – it is a week long festival here rather than just a one day event.

“795 buses come to Downpatrick’s St Patrick’s Centre and to St Patrick’s grave annually, and this is beginning to build into one of Northern Ireland’s key year-round all-weather tourist attractions. Soon we will have the critical mass needed for a local hotel.”

St Patrick in the parade in Downpatrick.
St Patrick in the parade in Downpatrick which is the next biggest one on Northern Ireland outside Belfast.

Councillor Cadogan Enright agreed with Cllr Brown and added: “The whole ethos of our parade is different in Downpatrick, and many Councillors on the Newry and Mourne side of the Council did not ‘get it’. We have a strong inter-church and religious flavor to our parade here.

“Our parade is led by the Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian and Baptist church leaders in the local area who are all part of our inter-church group. Our parade is always preceded by an inter-church morning pilgrimage from St Patrick’s first church in Saul to Down Cathedral where St Patrick is buried.

“Other parades around Ireland and around the world are a celebration of the Irish identity and about all that is positive about Irish nationality for both Irish people living here or in the 45-million strong diaspora from New York to Bejing. The religious element and the memory of St Patrick and his mission in Ireland are secondary in these other parades.”

Cllr Brown added: “It is clear that our Independent / Alliance grouping is having a significant impact on Council, forcing the bigger parties to think more clearly about their positions, be less parochial and work on a cross-party basis as a matter of routine.

“I believe we are in no small way starting to break down some of the traditional assumptions and mindsets associated with party politics in our District – specifically that those from different backgrounds who belong to different parties and ideologies can get along for the common good as a norm, rather than an exception”.