St Patrick’s Day: News, colour and fun across the island

The news from Dublin to Kerry; Belfast to Cork; Sligo to Waterford

An estimated half a million people lined the parade route between Parnell Square and St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin to witness the nation’s largest St Patrick’s Day celebration.

 

DUBLIN

Many native Dubliners are ambivalent about the St Patrick’s Day parade.

Many have seen it so many times before.

Others associate it with anti-social behaviour.

Still more associate it with inclement weather.

That ambivalence does not extend to visitors or those from overseas living in Ireland. For them, St Patrick’s Day is a chance to celebrate and belong. For visitors, it often fulfils a lifetime ambition to be in Ireland for St Patrick’s Day.

A typical St Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin is like the League of Nations. Indeed, it often seems like the native Irish in are in the minority.

The St Patrick’s Festival committee estimate that 487,000 people attended this year’s parade, half the population of the city, though quite how they arrived at that figure is anybody’s guess.

The crowds were 20 deep along O’Connell Street, but there was plenty of room further down the route. Enterprising locals sold tea and coffee from the side of the road. Giving the distinctly chilly day that was in it, they did a healthy trade.

Lyndon and Lisa Turner and Jeannie Groeber came from the very Irish sounding Ardmore in Oklahoma. They are making a week out of it.

“We come mostly for St Patrick’s Day to see the country,” said Lyndon. “We went to Belfast, we’re heading for Blarney Castle and the Ring of Kerry. It’s been wonderful. Everybody has been very friendly. The Irish have just been the nicest people we’ve every met.”

John Paredes from the Philippines was there a full hour before the parade began with his wife and cousins. He has been living in Ireland for eight years. “We love to integrate and to observe St Patrick’s Day,” he said.

Danielle McNaughton from Canada and Julianne McCauley from Glasgow were clearly enjoying themselves. Julianne said: “We’re just here for St Patrick’s Day. We just arrived yesterday and we love it. We want to live here! It’s all the Irish hunks’ accents. That’s what we came here for and whiskey and Guinness – in that order.”

– By Ronan McGreevy

BELFAST

Thousands of people took part in St Patrick’s Day parades and celebrations across the North. For the first time, Stormont was among the landmark buildings to “go green” in honour of Ireland’s patron saint. A cross-community 10km run and a parade in Belfast that snaked from City Hall to Custom House Square attracted huge crowds.

The Lord Mayor, Nicholla Mallon, took to Twitter to share her thoughts on the carnival atmosphere. “Huge snakes, gigantic St Patrick’s and wee St Patrick’s, colour, music and dance,” the SDLP First Citizen wrote. “Belfast has it all. Happy St Patrick’s Day.”

Innova Irish Dance Company, Sollus Highland dancers, Louis Walsh’s newest boyband, HomeTown, and former Blue singer Simon Webbe were among those entertaining revellers at a free concert in

Belfast city centre Green-themed parties took place across Northern Ireland with parades also being held in Armagh, Derry, Downpatrick, Enniskillen, Newry and Omagh.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, delivered a sermon in Co Down and took part in a pilgrimage walk to Downpatrick, where he laid a wreath at St Patrick’s grave before joining a parade through the town.

And in Armagh, the leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin, delivered the homily at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral.

“All over the world today people of many creeds, languages and race are celebrating our national saint, Saint Patrick,” he said. “It is a testimony to the tremendous outreach to the rest of the world that Ireland has had over many centuries.”

Earlier this month the Assembly Commission revealed it had agreed on four days for the lighting of Parliament Buildings in relevant colours. Under the Commission’s external lighting policy, Stormont was lit purple for International Women’s Day and on Tuesday the building was lit green to mark St Patrick’s Day.

It will go orange for the loyal orders July 12 commemorations and then red on November 11 to mark Remembrance Day.

– By Amanda Ferguson

LIMERICK

‘More fish and less ships’ was among the important environmental messages delivered at this year’s St Patrick’s Day in Limerick, which attracted crowds of more than 70,000 people.

Glorious sunshine added to the occasion with 68 floats taking part in the ‘Spring’ themed event.

The Transition year students from John the Baptist School in Hospital, Co Limerick received a special award for their creative entry aimed at promoting a world with sustainable fishing.

Their slogan ‘Fish ‘N Ships – More fish and less ships’ was designed to highlight the dangers associated with over fishing, which has major implications for the future of fish stocks and the health of our oceans.

Named after the Limerick-based artist and teacher Martin Folan, the award was presented for the most creative entry.

The colourful costumes worn by the children from Spotlight Stage School were equally matched by impressive dance moves which saw the pupils awarded the prize for the best performance.

Fresh from their weekend win in Birmingham – the third largest St Patrick’s Day Parade in the world – The Limerick City Rhythm Marching Band won the award for best musical performance.

Among those enjoying the Limerick parade at the review stand was the Minister for Finance Michael Noonan and Fianna Fáil Deputy Willie O’Dea.

The prize for best Youth Group was won by The Learning Hub which is actively involved in a campaign to tackle waste management and make Limerick city a cleaner place.

Scouts and sporting clubs from across the region were also well represented in this year’s Limerick parade.

Young Munsters Rugby Club took the opportunity to congratulate one of the club’s most high-profile internationals, congratulating Paul O’Connell on his 100th cap for Ireland at the weekend.

Internationally acclaimed aerial dance theatre company Fidget Feet were the Grand Marshals of the parade.

The Irish aerial dance and contemporary circus specialists are now based in Limerick, where they recently opened the country’s first Aerial Creation Centre.

Fidget Feet were chosen to lead this year’s parade due to the contribution they made during Limerick’s reign as national City of Culture.

– By Kathryn Hayes

CORK

Broadcaster and rugby pundit George Hook has spoken of feeling “blown away” with emotion after serving as grand marshal in the St Patrick’s Day parade in Cork city.

Speaking to Cork’s 96fm, the Newstalk presenter, who grew up in Albert Road in the city, said it was a huge honour to lead the parade in Leeside.

“For a fella from ‘Jewtown’ in Cork Albert Road to be walking down here in front of whatever number of thousand Cork people you cannot imagine. There was a suggestion that because I have a new knee I might need a car and I said ‘no way, I am walking every step of the way.’ I am getting more and more emotional.”

The Cork parade got underway at 1pm on the South Mall. It moved on to Grand Parade, St Patrick’s Street before finishing at Merchant’s Quay.

In the region of 50,000 spectators attended the festivities with 3,000 people participating in the parade itself. The theme this year was culture marking the 10th anniversary of Cork’s year as European Capital of Culture.

A highlight of the Cork city parade included the Bodhran Bookills – made up of 55 schoolboys from St Joseph’s NS. The boys played the bodhran en masse while dressed as Celtic warriors. The boys previously played for Queen Elizabeth II during her state visit in 2011.

In the county, parades were held – in amongst other places – Carrigaline, Clonakilty, Blarney, Cobh and Coppeen.

Coppeen, which has a population of less than a hundred people, holds the record for the greatest number of St Patrick’s Day parades hosted by a rural village of its size. This year’s was the 43rd parade held in the tiny town.

Meanwhile, the four day St Patrick’s Festival concluded in Cork city yesterday. (Tue) It featured a host of events including the parade, the food market, street performances, the festival food map and a fleadh at Cork Opera House.

– By Olivia Kelleher

WATERFORD

Floats and groups taking part in the Waterford city parade represented the old and the new, from its seafaring traditions and old sporting and cultural customs to modern-day activities enjoyed by today’s citizens.

Former All Star hurler Tony Browne was this year’s Grand Marshall as the parade made its way from The Glen, along the quays, around Reginald’s Tower and on to The Mall where dignitaries watched from a viewing platform, before ending at Parnell Street.

The theme for for this year’s parade was “Together We’re Better,” reflecting the first St Patrick’s Day since the city and county councils were merged.

The parade drew thousands of viewers to its route and they watched as hundreds of scouts from around Waterford led the way along with volunteers from the fire service, civil defence, reserve naval service, before the many other groups followed in their wake.

Sporting groups such as GAA clubs, football, boxing, basketball and other clubs joined with traditional Irish dancers as well as newer dance troupes along with martial arts organisations, marching bands and more.

There were representations from some of the migrant communities who have made their homes in Waterford such as the Filipino Irish Community branch and groups from Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo and India.

The Spraoi group provided its now-customary large-scale models such as a large, flipping fish and a Viking-style ship, while the Children’s Group Link showed off some impressive craft work featuring copies of landmarks like the Master McGrath monument outside Dungarvan and the Metalman in Tramore.

A rare political intervention, apart from a welcoming speech by mayor James Tobin, was provided by the Friends of the Elderly who reminded the HSE that it is “seven years” since promises were made of an upgrade at St Patrick’s Hospital.

Fire engines old and new and the Order of Malta were the last to proceed along the route and a playing of Amhrán na bhFiann brought events to a close.

– By Conor Kane

KERRY

The earliest St Patrick’s Day parade in the country took place in Dingle. The pre-dawn parade of a band of fife and drum musicians circled Dingle at 6am, re-enacting the period when parades were banned in daylight.

Killarney which has been staging a St Patrick’s Day festival since Sunday witnessed the biggest and most colourful parade in the tourist town’s history – with a new departure this year, a new route and a complete ban on float carrying trucks.

St Mary’s Cathedral is in green and schools have opened their car parks to accommodate the crowds.

Tralee’s parade took place at noon with the theme of “Active Tralee” and in Killorglin the parade took its theme from the myths and legends associated with the Fianna, and the Laune River which flows through the town.

– By Anne Lucey

GALWAY

Saints may be too sinless for sunburn, but St Patrick could have done with a bit of sunblock in Galway as unseasonally warm weather drew thousands out into the streets.

Parade guest of honour was performer, musician and storyteller Little John Nee, who is currently staging a series of autobiographical shows in his adopted home.

Galway is bidding for the European capital of culture title in 2020, and so “culture” and “creative spirit” was this year’s theme.

It’s also Ireland’s “most multicultural” city with over 23 per cent new Irish, declared master of ceremonies and arts officer James Harrold as he urged a warm welcome for the Russian Culture Club, the Galway Filipino Irish, the South African, Congolese and Polish communities.

Jugglers, hula-hoopers and stiltwalkers from Galway Community Circus, An Taibhdhearc theatre and Cúirt literary festival hosts were among participants, while Colours Street Theatre towed a seven-foot straw Cúchulainn, with a salmon of knowledge and swans pursued by a bark-and-pine-cone rat.

And “this is what a feminist looks like” declared members of the Galway Feminist Collective, with veteran artist and activist Margaretta D’Arcy among its participants. D’Arcy, who served time in prison last year over her opposition to US military use of Shannon, wore a mask representing the face of Ireland, wounded and streaming with blood.

Former NUI Galway scientist Micheline Sheehy Skeffington and supporters bore banners appealing for equality and for promotion of female colleagues, while Amnesty International highlighted violence against women in Mexico, and the Right2Water campaign and its river gods embraced all shades of blue.

Animal rescue volunteers from Madra came with four-legged companions, to the delight of canine spectators like Tadhg, an eight-year-old Irish wolfhound from Connemara. However, the parade theme became ever more elastic when several commercial interests advertised their wares.

Recapturing the artistic spirit were the Breton Bugale an Orient dancers from Lorient, France, and Macnas’s Youth Ensemble’s troupe of trainers and wild animals performed a rolling finale, complete with top-hatted ring mistress and gentle giant bear.

Even as the families dispersed and drinking began in earnest in Eyre Square, Gamelan na Gaillimhe musicians chimed the end of yet another city festival with magical Indonesian gongs.

– Lorna Siggins

SLIGO

If he is up there somewhere, hiding his face “amid a crowd of stars” over Ben Bulben and Knocknarea, William Butler Yeats probably soared closer to Sligo on St Patrick’s Day to see his name writ large on the festivities.

The poet’s name was, of course, being invoked at celebrations all over the world as the year-long celebration of his 150th birthday continues. But in Sligo he seemed to be everywhere, thanks in no small part to the “150 shades of Yeats” entry in the town’s parade which featured dozens of participants wearing Yeats masks who were endeavouring to create a record for the most Yeats lookalikes gathered in one place.

The man himself might have been taken aback by some of the tributes.

The Irish Kidney Association took the Adjudicators’ Cup for their Yeats having a transplant float while local bakery O’Hehirs, decorated their Lake Isle of Innisfree float with a huge “Happy Birthday WB “ placard and a signpost pointing the way to Ben Bulben, Lissadell, Kiltartan Cross and Byzantium.

The organiser of the Sligo parade Deirdre Healy McGowan reckoned that a combination of blue skies, blanket social media coverage and “the Yeats factor” had brought out record crowds. Local gardaí estimated that up to 30,000 people lined the 3km route.

It was a good humoured festive atmosphere with little or no reference to recent political controversies, probably to the relief of some of the dignitaries on the reviewing stand who included Bishop of Elphin Kevin Doran whose comments on the upcoming referendum have created quite a stir. Also reviewing the floats were Fine Gael TDs John Perry and Tony McLoughlin, the mayor of Sligo Tom MacSharry and Sligo county council chief executive Ciaran Hayes.

Local man Martin Forde did carry a placard saying “Shame on Junket Politicians” and was cheered as he paused at the reviewing stand to shake hands with the mayor and other politicians.

The loudest applause was probably for the Sligo Leitrim Filipino Association whose dancing exhibition won them the overall award at the parade, reflecting the popularity of many of the “new Irish” taking part – another eye opener for Mr Yeats if he was keeping tabs.

– By Marese McDonagh

DONEGAL

Thousands of people took advantage of stunning spring sunshine to make the Letterkenny Parade one of the most memorable in Co Donegal for many years.

Floats and features with everything from miniature ponies to vintage cars made their way down the town’s Main Street.

Other floats included Blaze Basketball Club, St Eunans GAA Club, the local Polish School, Blue Ribbon Dance and Drama Group, the Letterkenny Town Band, the Letterkenny Gaels GAA club as well as anti-austery groups.

Among the dignitaries invited to observe the parade was Dr Philip Boyce, Bishop of Raphoe.

The parade was led by the local Reserve Defence Force who took the salute from Commandant Donal McCafferty.

Toni Forrestor, CEO of the Letterkenny Chamber, said the parade was a huge success.

“The weather really added to the day and the crowds really did come out in their numbers. Everything passed off peacefully and it was great to see so many individuals and groups put in so much efforts for the parade.

“There was a real mixture of cultures and it was just great to see so many nationalities and people of different backgrounds coming together to celebrate St Patrick’s Day,” she said.

Among the interested spectators was a group of nine middle-aged women who had travelled from Scotland dressed as nuns.

“We’ve got some strange reactions but we had so much fun. Not too many Irish nuns must hang around pub doors drinking pints of Guinness,” said one of the women outside McGinley’s Bar on the town’s Lower Main Street.

A Garda spokesman in the town said the county’s biggest parade had passed off without any incident.

– By Stephen Maguire