Hundreds of thousands of people attended St Patrick’s Day parades across the country despite wet weather and stormy conditions which led to some marches being cancelled.
Many of the parades features tributes to the four Irish Coast Guard members who lost their lives in the Rescue 116 helicopter crash during the week.
A young man who battled alcoholism and addiction to turn his life around and complete a 5,000 km solo row across the Atlantic proved to be a fitting guest of honour at the St Patrick’s Day parade in Galway City.
Gavan Hennigan, who completed his epic voyage from the Canaries to Antigua last month, said the wintry conditions in his native city provided ideal preparation for an extreme adventurer.
“If you can put up with conditions like this, that’s the best training you can get,” he joked after watching the end of the parade pass by the viewing platform in Eyre Square.
“The conditions are pretty tough. It’s as bad as it is out in the middle of the Atlantic, nearly. I think it’s incredible that so many people came out to enjoy the parade today, given the conditions.”
The environment, and the city’s designation as European Green Leaf 2017, was the main theme of the one-hour parade, which included 1,000 enthusiastic performers and floats, despite the driving rain and near gale-force winds.
The awful weather failed to dampen the spirits of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts, the oldest military company in the United States and one of three visiting groups from overseas.
Some of the more colourful floats were provided by representatives of the city’s ethnic communities, including a fantastic red and yellow dragon from the Irish Chinese Society.
The Galway Traveller Movement celebrated their recent designation as a distinct ethnic group, while That’s Life Gameplan Players highlighted the wonders of performance theatre for people with special needs.
Representatives of the city’s Filipino, Polish, South African, and Indian communities underlined just how multicultural Galway has become, while there was a strong representation from the city’s GAA clubs.
There was a special round of applause for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association, who marched behind a banner which proclaimed “Love for All, Hatred for None”.
“I haven’t seen the parade in years, because I’ve been away gallivanting on adventures, but the first thing that jumped out at me today was the diversity of the communities here in Galway. It’s great to see it,” said Hennigan afterwards.
Celebrity chef and self-confessed “Cork blow-in” Rachel Allen served as the grand marshall in the city’s parade on Friday, just days before she opens her new restaurant in nearby Washington Street.
Ms Allen told Cork’s Red FM that her only concern heading in to the parade was trying to figure out appropriate footwear. “I was very honoured to be asked. I think I will bring a few options: heels, runners, wellies. It is going to be brilliant.”
The parade got underway at 1pm and attracted in the region of 50,000 people to the city centre. The theme of this year’s parade was “Cork – A City of Community, Culture and Commerce”.
The parade was led by a range of Ford models highlighting the decades of production at the Ford motor plant in Cork. Ford’s participation in the parade included a bespoke Ford 100 pageant display created by Dowtcha Puppets company.
An estimated 3,000 people participated in the parade, including spectacle and street performance companies Cork Community Artlink, Macnas, Spraoi and Dowtcha Puppets. The Spraoi float was based on the legacy of the copper mines in Allihies, west Cork, whilst the Dowtcha Puppets float had a futuristic theme.
Other groups participating included the United Filipino Irish Association, Nigeria Community Cork, the Mexican Community Cork and Mayfield GAA club which recently won the All Ireland Junior Hurling Championship.
Elsewhere in Co Cork, the Youghal parade was led by grand marshall, Sinead Kane. The solicitor recently became the first legally blind person to complete a global marathon, participating in seven marathons in seven continents over seven days.
“I feel so honoured to be Grand Marshall,” said the lawyer, who is registered blind, and has only 5 per cent vision. The thing I like so much about Youghal is that it is a community and everybody supports everybody.”
Rosemary O’Neill, daughter of the late US politician Tip, was Grand Marshall in the Mallow parade. Tip O’Neill, who had family connections in Mallow, was named a Freeman of Cork city in 1985.
It was a real “Angela’s Ashes day” as they say in Limerick, but the downpours during the city’s St Patrick’s Day parade didn’t dampen the spirits of the 50,000 who braved the elements.
Around 4,000 participants marched down the city’s main thoroughfare, O’Connell Street, making it one of the biggest regional parades.
Chinese dragons, leprechauns navigating ride-on lawnmowers, burly Vikings, and young dancers from Spotlight Stage School, splashed away the rain with colour and razzmatazz.
Despite the awful weather the masses were royally entertained by 100 different community and theatre groups, companies, sports clubs and bands.
Fourteen-year-old Limerick Person of the Year and cyberbullying campaigner Luke Culhane led out the parade, which this year had as its theme “Our Stories – this is where we belong”.
A special reception was given to members of the Search and Rescue teams in the parade, following the recent tragedy off the coast of Mayo with the loss of Rescue 116.
Limerick Marine Search and Rescue volunteers wore black armbands as they marched in the parade to huge applauds of appreciation.
A fleet of Viking longboats with a run of colourful salmon in their wake, brought the story of the River Shannon spectacularly to life.
Lumen Street Theatre Company with the help of Limerick School Project, the Westend Youth Centre, Southill Family Resource Centre and Limerick Youth Theatre, based their entry on the Goddess Sionna and “the well of wisdom”.
Meanwhile, in Bruff, a number of floats highlighted the country’s continuing hospital trolley crisis.
“2 to a bed, is that your solution minister?” read one banner carried by two locals dressed as nurses.
Another float read: “Simon Harris. Minister for trolleys and waiting lists.”
The festival continues in Limerick city on Sunday when 1,000 musicians from 17 bands from around the globe compete against each other in the 47th International Band Championship from 12-noon.
This year’s parade in Waterford was laced with sadness as it began with a quiet, dignified ceremony in memory of the four Coast Guard members who were lost at sea off Co Mayo during the week.
Captain Dara Fitzpatrick spent several years working with the R117 Coast Guard helicopter from its Waterford base while her colleagues were also on that crew at different times.
It was fitting, then, that the day’s festivities got under way with a minute’s silence, the calling out of their names by Eddie Mulligan of the Naval Reserve and the sounding of The Last Post.
The theme running through the Waterford parade was the Greenway, as much of the cycle and walkway which is set to attract thousands to the coastline will open next weekend.
There were also colourful contributions from communities representing many different nationalities now living in the city including those of Cameroon, Nigeria, Uganda, the Philippines, India, and the Ukraine. The latter included some members performing traditional Ukrainian dance while the national flags bore a resemblance to those of Waterford’s neighbours, Tipperary.
Donald Trump may be on his way to Ireland but the version put forward by Waterford Youth Arts — named best overall entry in the parade — made it here first, his orange face and yellow hair issuing from a “television” which was behind a fridge-freezer, for some reason. Maybe to cool down all that hot air.
Other inventive spectacles came from the Spraoi street theatre group, who can always be relied on to come up with something different, and this time it was on an Irish wildlife theme with their large-scale wolf, owl and goat thrilling the thousands who lined the streets.
Politics was largely avoided although the South East Patients Advocacy Group got their message across, with a reminder that it’s “88 minutes to Cork” as Waterford lacks 24/7 cardiac care.
Thousands of people enjoyed Saint Patrick’s Day festivities across the North on Friday. The main parades and parties were in Armagh, Derry, Downpatrick, Newry and Belfast.
The theme in Belfast was “The Four Quarters” which saw tourists and citizens from across the city and beyond get involved in a host of events.
DUP Lord Mayor of Belfast Brian Kingston was in the US representing the city so it was up to Sinn Féin deputy Lord Mayor Mary Ellen Campbell to lead the colourful parade and party.
She was joined by representatives of four major sporting events Belfast is due to hold this year - the World Ice Hockey Championships, the World 24 Hour Running Championships, the Women’s Rugby World Cup and the UEFA Women’s Under 19 Championships.
Ms Campbell said: “There is a brilliant buzz about the place. It is an inclusive day. We have bands and community groups from all backgrounds joining us, some that haven’t taken part before.”
The rain poured but the carnival atmosphere was helped along by Beat Carnival performers, musicians and artists.
They were joined by cross-community groups and others for a march from City Hall to a free open air concert at Custom House Square.
Pavel Bednarik (37) from the Czech Republic was enjoying his first St Patrick’s Day in Ireland.
“It’s interesting. It’s a big day like I have never encountered before.”
There as a large police presence in the Holyland area of south Belfast, a district heavily populated by students and young people that has been the scene of anti-social behaviour in the past over the holiday.
A PSNI source told The Irish Times overnight into Friday five arrests were made for low level disorder and minor alcohol related offences but it was otherwise quiet. Six arrests were made on Friday afternoon.
South Belfast MLA Clare Bailey said: “Much praise to the police this year and the universities for the work they have done on the ground.
“It’s nothing on last year.”
A senior PSNI officer said: “I think we’ve seen an improvement on the conduct last year.”