A row has erupted over the flying of the tricolour at a St Patrick’s Day parade in Downpatrick, County Down.
Unionists protested after Sinn Fein councillor Eamonn Mac Con Midhe said he planned to lead Thursday’s march carrying the Irish flag.
Mr Mac Con Midhe says he still plans to do so: “I’ll be there on Thursday with my tricolour marching down the street with the councillors as I said I would be.
“Very little unionist councillors have ever participated in the parade, so why are they telling people to stay away when they never came themselves?”
Twenty-five years ago, the pro-unionist council made the decision to give out red and white flags -- similar to the ‘Northern Ireland’ flag -- to those attending the annual celebrations
The flags are normally associated with loyalism and are normally flown on July 12th.
The council’s SDLP chairman Eamonn O’Neill said flying the Irish flag on St Patrick’s Day would amount to a ‘taunt’.
“I’m very proud of the flag, but it stands for peace between the two traditions on the island,” he said
“In fact, that’s the honourable nature of the flag and I would never dishonour it by using it as a taunt.”
In a statement from Sinn Fein Assembly member Willie Clarke, the party clarified its position on the flying of flags, saying the issue has been “blown out of all proportion”.
“The display of our national flag on St Patrick’s Day is a legitimate position and something I would robustly defend,” he said.
“As political representatives we have an obligation to represent the views of our constituents. I also recognise the St Patrick’s Day event as an occasion everyone should share and enjoy.
“It is unfortunate that the debate around this issue has been blown out of all proportion and I believe that all of us need to be sensitive to causing offence but also mature enough to debate these issues without inflaming passions.”