Tourism Development in the South Down Area, in Particular St Patrick’s Country and the Early Christian Heritage Signature Project
Northern Ireland Assembly
Kieran McCarthy (Alliance)
I thank Margaret Ritchie for bringing this very important subject to the House this evening. As a proud County Down man, I support the Adjournment topic on behalf of the Alliance Party. I fully support tourism development right across Northern Ireland and, indeed, across the whole of the island, because St Patrick is acknowledged as the patron saint of our entire island.
I pay tribute to my neighbouring Down District Council, under the fantastic leadership of its chief executive, Mr John Dumigan. He is a Portaferry man. Of course, you would expect nothing less from a man from Portaferry. I praise the council for its excellent provision and support of the Saint Patrick Centre in Downpatrick. It is a wonderful facility, and it depicts the life and times of our patron saint. I also pay tribute to our Tourist Board for its provision of St Patrick’s Trail. It takes people right across County Down, including what I consider to be the best part of County Down — namely, the Ards peninsula — where visitors can also visit Exploris in Portaferry, which I mention to the Minister on many occasions. They can spend some money in Portaferry and then cross Strangford lough on the ferry into the south of County Down.
Northern Ireland — indeed, the whole of Ireland — is a truly beautiful part of the world. Every effort should be made to develop, in a very sensitive way, what we have to offer, particularly in County Down. I pay tribute to our tourism Minister for her work so far in promoting Northern Ireland as a fantastic tourist destination. Last week, we all spoke of our passion for Strangford lough in the Chamber. There is much potential to further our economy through tourism in County Down. St Patrick can be the focal item to further what we all want to see and promote, which is all that is good in County Down.
I remind Members that, on two occasions, I had the privilege of proposing motions to previous Assemblies that St Patrick’s Day ought to be a public holiday for everybody. We all agreed; it was unanimous. Unfortunately, however, it had to go across the water for sanction from Her Majesty or someone else in high authority, and that is where it sticks. If the Minister has any sway with people over there, perhaps we can eventually, through the Assembly, ensure that everyone has a day off to celebrate our patron saint.