675,000 take to the streets in the balmy weather


DUBLIN PARADE:WARM WEATHER helped to swell the numbers on Dublin’s streets yesterday with an estimated 675,000 people turning out to see the St Patrick’s Day parade, according to organisers.

More than 2,000 performers, including street theatre companies, ceremonial groups and international marching bands, entertained the crowds along the 2.5km route through the centre of the capital.

Led by four GAA grand marshals, the parade started with a rousing version of Sarsfield’s Menfrom the No1 Army Band.

The GAA Tyrone football captain Brian Dooher, Henry Shefflin of Kilkenny hurling fame, Angela Walsh, Cork football captain and Cathriona Foley, the county’s camogie captain, were followed by a tribute to all things GAA in a pageant called Monumental Moments.

Helping to celebrate the organisation’s 125th birthday were giant sportsmen in blue jerseys playing a giant game of hurling while Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh, highest of all in a mobile commentary box, added his familiar tones and celebrated 60 years as a sports commentator.

And GAA mammies were not forgotten, with giant washing machines to symbolise all the jerseys laundered around the country every week.

Lord Mayor Eibhlín Byrne waved out at the crowds with her festively appropriate green leather gloves from her 18th century horse-drawn coach, before disembarking on O’Connell Street to watch the parade.

President Mary McAleese made her customary appearance at the main stand along with an assortment of local politicians and VIP guests, including Nancy Cartwright, the voice of Bart in the US animated comedy series The Simpsons.

Special guest judge on the day was Ronan Hayes, who won Young Person of the Year prize at last year’s Rehab awards.

The parade’s theme, “The Sky’s the Limit”, was well honoured by Luxe from Donegal with their pageant, Eudoxia.

It celebrated the international year of astronomy with Galileo, stilt walkers and an inflatable rotating solar system, and scooped this year’s Spirit of the Parade award.

Judges gave Best Pageant Award to City Fusion. Their presentation, the Conference of Birds, celebrated Dublin’s cultural diversity and was produced by St Patrick’s Festival in association with Dublin City Council’s office for integration.

Veteran parade entrants Buí Bolg from Wexford did not disappoint with their celebration of flight, including a giant golden pig, a candy-striped balloon, pig-faced air hostesses and a rocket ship manned by monkeys.

Other highlights included members of Spanish theatre company Scurasplats performing amazing stunts on bouncing stilts, a glimpse at the making of King Kong complete with giant gorilla from theatre company Spraoi and a psychedelic, flower-powered celebration of the 1960s from Kildare group Artastic.

The award for Best Marching Band went to Simsegräbsler from Hofstetten, Black Forest, in southwest Germany. The band, in black and red hats straight out of Dr Seuss, was the most informal of the 14 in this year’s parade.

Parade organisers said they were delighted with the turnout. A spokeswoman said it was one of the largest crowds they had ever had. “The weather was a big factor in attracting the crowds,” she said.

“Families often decide on the morning if they will go to the parade or not when they see what the weather is like.”

The event had passed off very smoothly and was incident free, she said.

“When the sun comes out everyone is in a good mood.”