Lanesboro parade set to be real blowout

Forget New York, it’s in the local parades you see the real Irishness

Thousands of people were in Belfast on Sunday for the city’s St Patrick’s Day parade and concert. The theme of the parade was St Patrick - to the future, with the saint depicted as a time-travelling adventurer. The parade included floats, performers and music. Photograph: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press

Thousands of people were in Belfast on Sunday for the city’s St Patrick’s Day parade and concert. The theme of the parade was St Patrick - to the future, with the saint depicted as a time-travelling adventurer. The parade included floats, performers and music. Photograph: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press

Mon, Mar 17, 2014, 01:02

All going well, Joe Cribbin will spend quite a bit of his St Patrick’s Day running down the combined main streets of Lanesboro and Ballyleague, disguised as Ciaran Mullooly, demanding that Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister for Justice Alan Shatter apologise to the whistleblowers on Garda corruption.

The main streets of Lanesboro, Co Longford, and Ballyleague, Co Roscommon, are divided by the Shannon, and of considerable length. “I’ll be asking the Taoiseach and the Minister to apologise every five yards,” says Joe Cribbin. “I’m going to be getting tired of it because it’ll take about two hours. But the adrenalin keeps you going, when you get the people laughing.”

Forget New York, Dublin and Chicago, it is in the local St Patrick’s Day parades around the country that you see the part of Ireland, and of Irishness, that nothing can kill. Ciaran Mullooly lives in Ballyleague, and was brought up in Lanesboro. Now, as RTÉ’s midlands correspondent, he reports on local St Patrick’s parades.

RTÉ reporters

He remembers former colleague Colm Connolly’s awards, given on this day to RT

É reporters delivering “the most children eating ice cream cones. The most crying children. The most sleet, snow wind and rain shots. And the most Irish words in the [report] package.”

In case there is any doubt about the dominant issue in Lanesboro/Ballyleague parade, Joe Cribbin will be preceded by a large whistle, covered in tinfoil – “it took four rolls” he says – and placed in a wheelbarrow. The taoiseach and the minister will be sitting in a State car (actually Joe’s Mercedes) and there will be eight uniformed gardaí walking beside it, blowing whistles. Joe Kilbride will be a motorcycle cop, riding his Kawasaki 1600 Tourer. “Sure isn’t it great to get out?” he says.

The 10 whistles came from Lifestyle Sports. The Garda uniforms are not dissimilar to firefighter’s uniforms, allegedly. The hats were acquired online, and the Garda insignia added to them were made, like the stickers for the motorbikes and the mock squad car, at Roscommon Signs, owned by Pat Hoey. “A great person for doing signs for charity,” says Joe Cribbin warmly. Although Enda Kenny and Alan Shatter might query that term. The two politicians will wear ear muffs, indicating their deafness both to public opinion and to whistles.

Not for one moment has Joe Cribbin doubted the theme of this year’s float. He only decides on it “one week before St Patrick’s Day. It has to be fresh in people’s minds. Last year we did horse meat and the year before that we did septic tanks,” he says. The 2012 septic tank float featured Joe Cribbin “sitting on a toilet with no trousers on me, through the town”.

‘Fire sweets’

Not all exhibits are elaborate. Butcher Terry McLoughlin is roasting a whole pig on a spit. Jackie Kyle will be driving his 1953 Ferguson 20 tractor.

Jackie bought it because it reminded him of his first tractor. “I did ploughing and mowing and baling and pulling turf with it,” says Jackie,who finds modern tractors too complicated. The Ferguson starts first time, wreathing us in diesel fumes, having been under covers since September. And then there is the 12th Roscommon Ballyboro scouts, parading a dragon. Boys aged 12 to 15 have made an ancient war machine, the ballista, from a donation of local Sitka spruce.

“They’re going to try to get it to fire sweets because we can’t fire balls of flame,” says scout leader Tom Gill, who will be participating himself: “I’ve a step-in ostrich costume – I made it. And I’ll be wearing a jester costume as well. Last year I was a gorilla in a tutu dress.”

The Ballyleague GAA club St Faithleach’s has won two awards for the beauty of its grounds. And so the trailer has been painted green, the silverware will be displayed and there will be half a dozen children on it. “That’s the awkward part,” says veteran club chairman Frank Curley on the task of choosing which children should take part.

Over on the Ballyleague side, Joe Cribbin is talking to Jimmy Hudson, chairman of the Tidy Towns committee, whose Greener Homes float sits in his driveway.

As we stand on the pavement, young boys from Lanesboro primary school celebrating their first hurling final win are driven past, their heads sticking out of windows and sun roofs as they roar in triumph. Someone punts a ball of what looks like sweet wrappers so it lands at the feet of Jimmy Hudson. It was a perfect shot; it makes you proud. Our talent for mockery is older than St Patrick.