Northern Ireland

DUP not attending Dublin Castle Pope address

Arlene Foster
Image caption DUP leader Arlene Foster is on holiday during Pope Francis' visit to Dublin

The DUP has confirmed it will not be represented in Dublin when Pope Francis visits next weekend.

Northern Ireland's five main political parties were invited by the Irish government to an address by Pope Francis in Dublin Castle next Saturday.

In a statement, the DUP leader Arlene Foster said she would be away with her family on holiday at the time.

Sinn Fein's Stormont leader Michelle O'Neill will attend both the address and the papal mass in Phoenix Park.

The DUP told BBC News NI no-one else from the party would be attending in Mrs Foster's place.

The party said Mrs Foster "particularly acknowledges the significance of this event for many Roman Catholics in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland".

The DUP will be the only party that will not have someone attending either of the events taking place next weekend.

The Ulster Unionist Party said its leader Robin Swann was unable to attend the papal address as he will be participating in the annual Black Saturday Parade in Larne, County Antrim, but that Robbie Butler would represent the party instead.

Mr Swann has no plans to attend the Papal Mass on Sunday.

The SDLP confirmed its leader Colum Eastwood will be going to Dublin, but has not decided which event yet.

Alliance said the party's leader Naomi Long was unable to go but the party would be sending someone else to Dublin in her place.

The pontiff will arrive in Dublin on 25 August for a two-day tour, the first Irish papal visit for almost 40 years.

His tour includes events at Dublin's Phoenix Park, Croke Park and Knock.