SDLP assemblyman John Dallat has described as “astonishing” the fact that August 15, the Feast of the Assumption, is not a national holiday either in the North or the South.
The East Derry assembly member has called for both governments to begin the process of bringing Ireland into line with many European countries that recognise the Heavenly birthday of Our Lady.
He said: “The Feast of the Assumption is not exclusively a Catholic event but celebrated by Christians all over the world either formally or informally.
“In Europe this special day in the life of the Christian churches is a public holiday in Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Spain, France, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Lithuania, Malta, Portugal. Poland, Romania, Slovenia, the vast majority of which are members of the European Union. The feast day is also a public holiday in many other parts of the world, including Africa and America.
“In Ireland Our Lady has a very special place in the lives of people yet this special day is not marked by a public holiday and that seems very strange indeed. In other countries there is a build-up of festivals in the towns and villages culminating in major events on 15 August. It is an opportunity for everyone to become involved in a celebration of the special relationship the Mother of God holds in the lives of Irish people. It would be an excellent opportunity for our communities to come together to celebrate our Christianity in a non-threatening way and for those who are not Christians it would be their opportunity to celebrate diversity in a very positive way.
“For the North this would be real challenge to move on, celebrate what we have in common and show the world that we can join the other nations of the world in one of the most important events in the history of mankind.”