A Catholic shrine in Scotland has become the focus of a political row and has cost a member of parliament (MP) his job with the British government.

The MP, Frank Roy, advised Ireland's Prime Minister, Bertie Ahern, not to visit a Marian shrine near Glasgow because he feared sectarian disturbances. Ahern, who accepted the advice, was scheduled to unveil a new memorial at the shrine, Carfin Grotto, on February 11 to victims of the 19th-century Irish potato famine.

The event was to have taken place on the same day as a football match between Glasgow's two main football teams, Celtic and Rangers. In the past matches between the two teams have sometimes triggered violence between the mainly Protestant supporters of Rangers and the mainly Catholic supporters of Celtic. However on 11 February the match was won 1-0 by Celtic, and passed off without serious incident.

Roy, who was parliamentary private secretary to Britain's Scottish secretary Helen Liddell, bolstered his letter to the Irish prime minister by mentioning her name, and that of her predecessor, John Reid, who is now Northern Ireland secretary.

The inclusion of the two ministers is thought to have influenced the Irish premier's decision to stay away from the shrine. But both ministers have denied having anything to do with the letter.

Roy, in whose constituency the Marian shrine is located, said in his resignation letter: "If I had not highlighted my concerns about the timing of the visit, I would not have been fulfilling my duty to the people who elected me."

However, two senior figures at Carfin Grotto told ENI that the Marian shrine had no history of sectarian disturbances. Frank McAleese, a priest ministering at the shrine, said when asked about sectarian trouble: "Never. ...

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