Churchgoers’ concerns about switching Belfast City marathon to a Sunday have been heeded by council officials as they confirmed next year’s event will be held on its usual Bank Holiday Monday date.
Churchgoers had hit out at the proposed switch with some saying they would not be able to participate because of their views on the Sabbath.
Others were concerned that a Sunday marathon would disrupt the thousands trying to get to church on that day.
On Wednesday night Belfast City Council agreed to suspend the issue for a year, and guaranteed that next year the event would not be on a Sunday.
Chairman of the development committee, DUP William Humphrey, said: “The concept of the idea of running the marathon on a Sunday must be postponed to allow the marathon committee to have a consultation process and consult with everyone including the churches”.
“No changes will happen without faith based groups being consulted and this should happen as soon as possible.
“But I can say that next year, the marathon will be held on the Bank Holiday Monday again”, he added.
Ulster Unionist councillor Jim Rodgers said he had been “strongly lobbied” on the issue by constituents.
And he questioned why the marathon’s event day should be changed given its success on the Bank Holiday Monday for the last 30 years.
Mr Rodgers said: “Many churches could suffer severe disruption if it is moved to a Sunday with their congregations unable to get to their service.
“As well as that, the many organisations run by the church, such as the Boys Brigade, often take part in the marathon to raise money for very worthy charities but they will be unable to do that if it is moved.”
Northern Ireland Sports Minister, the DUP’s Nelson McCausland, had previously expressed his personal view that running the event on a Sunday would “eliminate a section of the community who wish to worship on a Sunday”.
“I would urge the organisers to reconsider this matter,” Mr McCausland had said.
A bank holiday date costs the police more money in overtime payments and senior police figures are believed to favour the change in date.
An editorial in the Belfast News Letter last month said: “The marathon is unique in that it snakes right around our capital city and on Sundays would cause major disruption for people going to and from their places of worship.
“Many Christians would find it impossible to take part in the marathon on a Sunday and that means lost revenue for charities which get a huge boost from the big day.
“It seems a pity that Belfast City Council is considering changing something that already works extremely well. Surely some imaginative thinking from the PSNI could reduce their overtime costs and every single person who wants to take part in the marathon would be able to do so, without disrupting the lives of people who want to go to church.”