Brussels’ Manneken Pis dons Aran jumper for St Patrick’s Day
Grand Place turned emerald green as Belgian-Irish relations are celebrated
Brussels’ Manneken Pis statue was dressed in a traditional Irish costume, comprising a custom-made Aran jumper, Irish tweed trousers and a patchwork tweed cap. Photograph: Suzanne Lynch
The gilded facades of Brussels’ Grand Place turned a rich shade of emerald green yesterday as the Belgian capital’s main square took part in Tourism Ireland’s ‘Global Greening’ initiative for the first time.
At 7.20pm the buildings of the Unesco World Heritage Site were illuminated in green, with the square due to turn green once again tonight.
Nearby, the famous Manneken Pis statue was dressed in a traditional Irish costume, comprising a custom-made Aran jumper, Irish tweed trousers and a patchwork tweed cap.
At a ceremony attended by Irish Ambassador to Belgium Eamonn Mac Aodha, Minister for European Affairs Paschal Donohoe said that the day was a special one for Ireland. “We’re celebrating a day that really matter to Ireland, St Patrick’s day , our national day of celebration,” he told the crowd of assembled tourists and Irish residents in Belgium.
“Ireland and Belgium have tremendously warm relations. Both are small countries , we trade a lot with each other. Irish people living here in Brussels, love the experience of living here in Belgium, and we always welcome Belgians to live in and visit Ireland.”
Mr Donohue is representing Ireland at today’s meeting of EU foreign affairs ministers in Brussels, at which the situation in Ukraine will be discussed.
Ans Perslons, representative of Brussels city council said the event was an important one for Irish-Belgian relations.
“Belgium and Ireland have many things in common, similar customs and traditions,” she said, before unveiling the statue of the Manneken Pis, dressed in Irish garments.
Earlier in the day, hundreds of people gathered in Brussels’ Parc Cinquantenaire for the annual St Patrick’s Day Parade. The parade’s grand Marshall Dr. Seán Ó Riain carried the “Rathmullan Bo Staff”, a staff cut from wood growing on the hills overlooking Rathmullan Harbour in Donegal, in a symbolic reference to the Flight of the Earls and the foundation of the Irish College at Leuven 400 years ago.
As well as displays of set-dancing and children’s activities, local GAA organisation, Belgium GAA captivated crowds in the sun-drenched park with displays of hurling, camogie and Gaelic football. Shane Ryan , chairman of Belgium GAA, said the annual event was an important fundraiser for the organisation, and an opportunity to showcase Irish sports to non-Irish residents in Belgium. Around 80 per cent of Belgium GAA’s membership are Irish.
Among the crowds gathered for the occasion in the park, were many Irish rugby fans who had made the 75 minute train journey from Brussels to Paris on Saturday to witness Ireland’s win over France in the Six Nations.