First Minister Peter Robinson has been accused of planning to snub St Patrick’s Day celebrations in Brazil.
The Christ the Redeemer statue overlooking Rio de Janeiro will go green for the first time to mark the March 17 holiday but the DUP leader is expected to leave his deputy Martin McGuinness to attend the official ceremony alone, a political rival said.
The ministers are holding a series of business-related meetings in the South American economic powerhouse.
SDLP MLA Patsy McGlone said: “He has chosen not to support our tourism sector at a time when it needs support and positive promotion to recover the consequences of the image the lunatic flag protesters and their supporters sent around the world.”
For the past three years Tourism Ireland has arranged for major landmarks and iconic sites around the world to “go green” on St Patrick’s Day, shining coloured lights upon the London Eye, Burj Al Arab in Dubai, Table Mountain in South Africa and Niagara Falls on the US/Canadian border.
This year’s Brazilian carnival is part of The Gathering marketing strategy spearheaded by the Irish Government which encourages emigres to return to Ireland on holiday and help boost the labouring economy.
The Gathering celebrates Irish culture and heritage. It has encouraged the organisation of extended family get togethers, for example far flung members of the Gallagher clan are expected to descend upon Co Donegal later this year.
No one from the DUP was available for comment on Wednesday night.