St Patrick’s Day parades in Newry and Downpatrick have been cancelled amid coronavirus concerns.
Newry, Mourne and Down District Council made the decision on Tuesday morning following a meeting of party leaders.
A council spokesperson stated: ““Newry, Mourne and Down District Council has taken the decision this morning to cancel the St Patrick’s Day Parades due to be held in Downpatrick and Newry on March 17.
“This decision has been made in consultation with party leaders and is in line with the recent cancellations of St Patrick’s Day parades elsewhere.
“The Council appreciates the negative impact this decision may have on local businesses at this time, however this decision has been taken as a precaution given our Members’ and the public’s concern around the coronavirus response.”
Sinn Fein’s council party leader Willie Clarke said: “Given the concerns raised by the community in relation to the Coranavirus which is extremely dangerous to the most vulnerable in our community.
“Council group leaders took the decision on Tuesday morning following discussions with senior council officials, it is essential that we have an all Ireland response to this epidemic, which is spreading rapidly across Europe. I understand the disappointment participants, organisers, visitors and business are experiencing.”
He added: “St. Patricks Day is a great time for this region as thousands of citizens and tourists gather in Newry and Downpatrick to celebrate Irish culture and identity in a vibrant and inclusive manner.
“I understand the disappointment the community will feel in regards the cancellation, lots of effort has been undertaken by organisers, voluntary groups schools and council staff, I would like to see an event held at a later date if it is possible, to reschedule these celebrations, sections of the business community will undoubtedly see a reduction in business.
“It is important that actions are taken and funding obtained to provide resources to mitigate these losses.”
“As group leader of Sinn Féin I believe there is an obligation on myself and all councillors to protect the health and well-being of citizens.
“Given the spread of coronavirus and growing concern amongst the public, I believe that as a precaution, postponing the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations is the responsible thing to do, the decision to cancel our St Patrick’s day parades was not taken lightly.”
Parades across Ireland have been cancelled with Dublin and Belfast being pulled by their respective Councils on Monday night.
Armagh’s community-led parade remains on as of Tuesday morning.
In Northern Ireland, 222 tests have been carried out with 12 positive cases confirmed.
More than 300 cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed in the UK with 24 people having tested positive for the virus in the Republic of Ireland.
Meanwhile, every country in the European Union now has cases of coronavirus, with Cyprus having detected two cases today, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said.