Northern Ireland

Christmas tree at your convenience in Downpatrick

It was a case of Christmas at your convenience in Downpatrick when the lights were switched on the festive tree at the weekend.

For residents of the town were surprised to find it had been located beside a block of public toilets on Market Street.

Now the council has agreed to replace the tree, which was branded "a laughing stock", and move it to Saint Patrick's Square following an outcry from traders and the public.

DUP MLA and councillor Jim Wells said a streescape project had prompted the tree's location beside the toilets and "it was the only place available".

"It is a case of hands up guilty as charged, the council has looked at the situation and as a result of pressure from local residents, shopkeepers and the media the Christmas tree will be moved," he added.

"A new Christmas tree will be erected in Saint Patrick's Square in a much more suitable position.

"I have to accept that outside the public loos in Downpatrick is not the most suitable place for a Christmas tree.

"I should defend the council staff as we are carrying out a multi-million pound streescape scheme in Downpatrick, it has totally revitalised the town centre and there is a lot of work going on with footpaths being dug up and streetlighting being put in etc.

"This meant the original site where the Christmas tree is being erected in Saint Patrick's Square wasn't awailable at the weekend when the switching-on ceremony was being carried out."

Patrick Cassidy of the Downpatrick Business Forum said traders had been "dismayed" when they saw the tree at the lights switch-on.

"To be honest it was joked that it was a credit crunch Christmas tree, now that the joke is over we want our town on the map for all the right reasons," he added.