The call came during a speech to the House of Commons by Ulster Unionist David Burnside, the anti-agreement MP for South Antrim, and evoked titters of laughter around the chamber.
Burnside told Paul Murphy, the British Northern Ireland secretary, that other countries around the world put “a lot of money behind their constitutional celebrations” and that “the UK should do the same.”
The U.S. promoted Independence Day on July 4 and France had Bastille Day on July 14, he said.
“When will the Northern Ireland Office give some support to our great constitutional celebrations?,” he asked. “The pageantry and the music would bring tourists into Northern Ireland to celebrate those constitutional events in our history.”
To laughter, Murphy replied: “Obviously I’ll have to consult on those issues, but I do know that the different traditions enrich Northern Ireland and as a consequence of that people will want to go there.”
But an SDLP Upper Bann councilor, Dolores Kelly, criticized Burnside. “These comments are ludicrous and it’s no wonder that the House of Commons erupted into laughter when this proposal was made to the secretary of state,” she said.
Kelly, whose constituency is close to the annual controversial Drumcree parade in July, said: “What Mr. Burnside fails to recognize is that it because of the actions of the Orange Order over the years, excessive parading, uncivil behavior and paramilitary displays, that people desert the North during the July parading season. If David Burnside is really interested in promoting tourism he should ensure that all parties engage with the Parades Commission and with residents to minimize disruption and conflict.”