Battle of Clontarf shields give shelter in the Sydney rain

Dancing schoolgirls’ carefully curled hairdos were looking distressed

 Drag queen Peachy Queen poses from the back of a bus and prepares to march in the St Patrick’s Day parade on behalf of all gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people for the first time in Sydney, Australia. Photograph:  Don Arnold/Getty Images

Drag queen Peachy Queen poses from the back of a bus and prepares to march in the St Patrick’s Day parade on behalf of all gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people for the first time in Sydney, Australia. Photograph: Don Arnold/Getty Images

Mon, Mar 17, 2014, 01:00

 


The sails of the Sydney Opera House will be lit up in green today in honour of St Patrick’s Day. Yesterday being the closest Sunday to March 17th, they held the big parade. Sometimes, Sydney in March can be just a little too like Ireland. After last year’s scorching weather for the city parade, this year a beautiful autumn morning gave way to rain just as the parade started.

Marchers re-enacting the Battle of Clontarf were able to use their shields for umbrellas but many county GAA jerseys and “Kiss me, I’m Irish” T-shirts were soon soaking wet. The Irish dancing schoolgirls’ carefully curled hairdos were looking distressed.

An enterprising soul – who had checked the forecast – was soon doing a roaring trade in green ponchos. There was no shortage of takers among the estimated 30,000 crowd. Twenty-five minutes later, thunder and lightning started.

Luckily the Irish wolfhound club (joined by a couple of red setters who snuck in at the tail end) had already passed the viewing stand at Town Hall. The parade also featured marchers from GAA clubs, Irish-Australian businesses, pipe bands and county associations.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Simon Coveney was in Sydney for the parade. “I think it’s really important that senior representatives of the Irish Government go to parts of the world where there has been and continues to be a really strong Irish influence,” he told The Irish Times .

“We need to let people know that they’re not forgotten, that they’re very much part of Ireland . . . One of the things I’ve been saying everywhere [in Australia], particularly to young people who have come here in the last number of years, is that hopefully in the not-too-distant future there will be an opportunity for them back home, if they want to come back home to work.”

Mr Coveney has had several meetings every day, including with federal and state ministers. He is travelling to New Zealand for further meetings.

After the parade, those not turned off by the rain went to Hyde Park where there was Irish food, drink and music, and dozens of Irish people became Australians in a citizenship ceremony.

For the first time in almost three decades, there will be no St Patrick’s Day Mass in Sydney’s St Mary’s Cathedral. To save on expenses, the Mass, celebrated by Bishop Noel Treanor of Down and Connor, has been moved to the smaller St Patrick’s Church.

As well as the Sydney parade, there were St Patrick’s Day parades in several other Australian cities and towns over the weekend.