St Patrick's Day parades called off over coronavirus

Annual St Patrick's Day parades in Belfast, Derry, Newry and Downpatrick have been called off due to concerns around the spread of the coronavirus.

It follows the decision to cancel events in cities across the Republic of Ireland, including Dublin.

Belfast City Council has backed a proposal from Lord Mayor Daniel Baker to postpone its event.

In a statement, the Mayor said: "Our St Patrick’s Day celebrations are always hugely anticipated and a great day out for people right across the city, so it’s obviously very disappointing that this year’s event won’t go ahead as planned.

"The decision to postpone this year’s event has been taken as a precaution, given members’ and the public’s concern around coronavirus."

Meanwhile, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council has also cancelled planned celebrations.

A statement said: "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.”

Derry City and Strabane District Council has also confirmed that the decision has been taken to cancel this year’s St Patrick’s festivities.

Mayor Michaela Boyle said: “We have been reviewing the situation daily and, following the advice of the health agencies in relation to Covid19, felt that we should be proactive in our response regarding public events.

“The safety of council staff and the general public are, as always, paramount and, although official advice on the cancellation of public events has yet to be issued, it was felt that this would be a sensible response to what is a growing concern.”

Ireland's Six Nations game against France, which was due to be played in France this weekend, has also been called off.