Shane Ross fails to launch, but St Patrick’s Festival sets out its stall

More than 3,000 performers to take part, with 100,000 overseas visitors expected

The country will be in safe hands over the St Patrick's Day holiday, with Minister for Tourism Shane Ross manning the fort while his Cabinet colleagues circumnavigate the globe.

However, it was a case of Hamlet without the prince on Wednesday evening at the Royal College of Physicians on Kildare Street, just a few doors down from Leinster House, when Mr Ross failed to show up for his appointment to launch this year’s St Patrick’s Festival, which runs from March 16th-19th.

The Minister was otherwise engaged with his Independent Alliance colleagues, explained festival chair Judith Woodworth, who said Mr Ross was unavoidably absent "due to events at another building up the street".

At that very moment, the members of the Alliance were speaking to the press about their decision to (just about) support the Government.



Happily, the absence didn’t seem to cause too much upset to attendees, who lapped up a powerful performance by spoken-word artist

Stephen James Smith


My Ireland

, a piece specially commissioned for the festival. It was the first time the 12-minute-long piece, which namechecks everyone from John Charles McQuaid to Waterford Whispers, had been performed live following its release on YouTube that morning .

More than 3,000 artists, musicians, dancers and poets will take part in this year's four-day St Patrick's Festival, which has the intriguing if syntactically challenged theme this year of "Ireland You Are . . ." It hopes to celebrate, in the words of artistic director Karen Walshe, "who we are as a culturally diverse, complex and brave society".

Among the highlights she pointed to were Young Blood in the National Concert Hall, a showcase of young, spoken-word and hip-hop artists including the aforementioned Stephen James Smith, and The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, a day of discussions and performances in Smock Alley theatre on the subject of Ireland and revolution.

Family day out

For most Dubliners, though, St Patrick’s Day means a big family day out, and the Lord Mayor,

Brendan Carr

, expressed his excitement at the prospect of leading the parade in the magnificent 18th-century mayoral coach. In a radical move that may upset traditionalists, the parade will come down the east side of O’Connell Street because of the current Luas works.

The St Patrick’s Festival was established in 1995 and over the past two decades has generally been a success in its stated mission of celebrating Irishness and making a few bob along the way.

More than 100,000 overseas visitors are expected to attend more than 30 events from March 16th-19th, with the parade taking place from 12pm on the 17th. There will also be funfairs as usual on Merrion Square and Custom House Quay.

Other popular events include the Big Day Out in Merrion Square on March 18th, with street theatre, aerial performance, workshops and, for those stressed out by the whole thing, a spot of yoga.

Hugh Linehan

Hugh Linehan

Hugh Linehan is an Irish Times writer and Duty Editor. He also presents the weekly Inside Politics podcast