THE DEPUTY LEADER of Northern Ireland’s largest Unionist party has asked the British government to consider making St Patrick’s Day a public holiday across the United Kingdom.
Nigel Dodds asked Sir George Young, the Leader of the House of Commons, whether members could look forward to a statement making March 17 a holiday in the UK, as it currently is in the Republic.
Dodds said making the date a public holiday would be an appropriate way to follow “the excellent news that the city of Armagh will be awarded a lord mayoralty in this diamond jubilee year”.
He was told that the matter would be better addressed to Owen Paterson, the UK’s Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, who had previously written a letter explaining the issues surrounding the declaration of new holidays.
In a press statement issued later, Dodds noted that while St Patrick’s Day is a bank holiday in Northern Ireland, it does not carry the status of an official holiday.
He remarked that both the Irish Guards and the Royal Irish Regiment were set to take part in parades in Northern Ireland tomorrow, but that not everyone would enjoy a day off on Monday from the resulting bank holiday.
“Whilst some people will enjoy a day off as a result of the Bank Holiday this is not the case for everyone, including some parents whose children’s schools do celebrate it,” he said.
He added that there could be “no more appropriate time for a statement to come from the Secretary of State, which would designate the day as a Public Holiday which could be enjoyed by everyone within the Province,” than to follow the announcement that Armagh was being given a mayor.
Armagh houses two Cathedrals named in honour of St Patrick, with the more modern Catholic building originally intended as a replacement for the older Church of Ireland one.
The varying branches of Christianity do not distinguish between patron saints, and Patrick is therefore honoured as the patron saint of the island of Ireland in both Catholicism and Anglicanism.