Downpatrick losing out since merger of councils

SIR, — Hats off to Downpatrick councillor Gareth Sharvin and his call for Downpatrick to be at the heart of the district’s annual St Patrick’s Day celebrations.

While the number of people who attended this year’s March 17 cross-community parade in the town was slightly down, due to bitterly cold weather and Ireland’s grand slam rugby showdown with England at Twickenham, the event did not have the same feel of previous years.

Cllr Sharvin is right to ask Newry, Mourne and Down Council to start planning now for the 2019 parade in Downpatrick and with great respect to our fellow citizens in Newry, Patrick started and ended his ministry in Downpatrick and is buried at Down Cathedral.

While I have nothing against March 17 celebrations to honour our patron saint in the border town, his close association with Downpatrick must be properly reflected in the local authority’s celebrations.

It would appear there is not the same emphasis on St Patrick’s celebrations in the county town since the former Down Council ceased to exist.

Downpatrick is the recognised home of the patron saint and there should be a packed programme of events in his honour.

Cllr Sharvin highlighted the need for greater connectivity with businesses and local communities and called for the creation of an inter-community and business forum for local people to contribute to the festival planning jointly with council officials. This is essential.

One of the criticisms I often hear is that there is precious little for spectators to do after the festival parade is over and that many drift away in significantly large numbers.

Given we have thousands of people in the town centre, there needs to be something to keep them there and, most importantly, spend their money in local shops to boost the town’s economy.

We are in the home of St Patrick and have a duty to celebrate the patron saint to the fullest. We have a unique brand which we must exploit to attract local, national and international visitors to the district next year.

Yours etc.,



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