Around Europe

 

A round-up of celebrations around Europe

BERLIN

Some 250 cheering Irish Berliners pulled together for the German capital’s first St Patrick’s Day Parade yesterday in a misty drizzle worthy of the real deal in Dublin.

With just 10 days’ notice, they organised through Facebook and came in gloriously over-the-top costumes to follow Patrick Reddy from Waterford as St Patrick.

He was in full green regalia and wielded an impressive crozier made of a broom handle, a coat hanger and tin foil, ideal for banishing an oversized yellow snake that bore a resemblance to a Chinese parade dragon.

“Follow the snake,” shouted Dara O’Niall, one of the parade’s initiators and co-owner of the Kleine Reise club in Kreuzberg. “It’s mental, but everyone just pulled together, though we weren’t expecting anything like this.” Getting a marching rhythm going was Gareth Crawley, giving an excellent impression of The Little Drummer Boy.

“The Irish are flooding over to Berlin and, thankfully, the job situation is improving,” he said. “All we need now is a decent pub.” Just after 4pm the raggle-taggle parade began its march from a Mexican restaurant through the grey, muddy expanse of Görlitzer Park.

Here, on the site of a demolished train station, a tricycle pulled a loudspeaker with diddley-eye tunes while, further back, the paraders greeted surprised joggers with a spontaneous, a cappella rendition of I’ll Tell Me Ma.

“Where are we from?” shouted one parader. The reply? “We’re from Ireland, mighty, mighty Ireland.” It was an old-fashioned good time, the average age of the crowd was mid-20s and there was little drinking and no trouble, which was probably just as well.

“I’d heard there’s no permit so I’m a little worried about the police, but it looks fine,” said Martin from Kildare, carrying his bodhrán.

Seán de Burca from Rush, carrying his guitar, said he was pleased to see the Berlin Irish come together – for the first time in memory. “Most Irish in Berlin want to experience the city on their own,” he said. “But it’s good to know there’s a network there and that you can have that too.”

Best Irish costume in a very strong field was the confetti-laden Eva Keane from Galway who was accompanied by an inflatable snake. Her message to the plain people of Ireland: “Onwards and bloody upwards.”

Best local effort was a Berliner, Sandra, who had combined a green gymslip with smart green leprechaun hat and green eyelashes. A model of Germanic efficiency, she bought her costume online five weeks ago.

Pawel from Wroclaw in Poland said he was impressed by the “emotional, national spontaneous” feel of the parade. “I’m glad to be Irish today,” he said.

Watching events, taxi driver Klaus said he was impressed by the parade and “optimistic it’ll be back next year”.

Walking happily in the rain was Orla from Dublin and her three children: Oisín (10) and twins Niamh and Fionn (6).

“It’s like Dublin in the 80s,” laughed Orla.” “I didn’t realise it was a DIY affair,” said Michael from Cork, “but when I got over the shock of realising that we ‘were’ the parade it’s turned out be good fun.” As the parade came in for the final stretch of its makeshift route, it crossed the former, now invisible, divide between East and West Berlin: the Landwehr Canal.

And for one brief moment the singing paraders conjured up The Auld Triangleand transformed the silent waterway into the “Banks of the Royal Canal” before marching away in the soft Irish rain. DEREK SCALLY

PARIS

One of the French capital’s landmark buildings, the Moulin Rouge, was illuminated in green yesterday for St Patrick’s Day celebrations devoted mainly to developing trade and tourist links between Ireland and France.

Addressing a reception at the Irish Embassy last night, Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney stressed the “incredible potential” to develop the traditionally close Franco-Irish relationship. “The Irish and French respect and admire each other, we like each other and we can do so much for each other in partnership – be it business, culture, politics or even sport,” he said.

“The Government are determined to rebuild Ireland’s reputation internationally and to drive an export-led economic recovery.”

He told the audience Ireland was emerging from recession, that exports were strong and that the country would be well placed to take advantage of an upturn.

Today Mr Coveney is due to visit a number of French firms with close ties to Ireland’s food industry, and to brief French journalists on the current situation in Ireland.

The festivities in Paris began with a Tourism Ireland reception at O’Sullivan’s Irish Pub. Next door, the Moulin Rouge marked a first when it joined other world-famous buildings such as the Sydney Opera House and Toronto’s CN Tower in going green for the day. “It’s the first time Paris has taken part, and I’m very proud,” said Jean- Jacques Clerico, the Moulin Rouge’s president.

Festivities began in Paris at 9am, when Ambassador Paul Kavanagh rang the opening bell at NYSE Euronext, the Paris branch of the New York Stock Exchange – a parallel event to the annual ceremony in Manhattan.

Mr Kavanagh said the event marked “the superb and winning relationship between Ireland, the United States and Europe”. He told his audience the fundamentals of Ireland’s economy were secure, that competitiveness had rebounded and that investment was strong. “Our country is recognised as a pre-eminent location for fresh thinking, and as a global hub of innovation.”

Tourism Ireland’s spring marketing campaign begins this week in France, with a series of advertisements to be broadcast on prime-time television. France is the fourth-largest source of visitors to Ireland, accounting last year for about 350,000 people and over €185 million in revenue. RUADHÁN Mac CORMAIC

BRUSSELS

Ireland took its place among the nations of Europe as it became the final EU country to dress the Manneken-Pis, the best-known statue in Brussels.

For more than 300 years the monument of a little boy urinating in a pond has been decked out in costumes to celebrate nations, carnivals, battalions, anniversaries and individuals.

This is a sacred tradition in Brussels. It is defined by strict protocol and carefully preserved by the Order of the Friends of Manneken-Pis, a jolly bunch of fellows who are wont to burst into song whenever the city’s mascot receives new clothing.

Ireland’s costume, its 862nd, was unveiled for St Patrick’s Day. A couple of hundred people gathered in the cold as Janine Gettemans, the official dresser, decked the statue out in an Aran sweater, green trousers and a tweed cap.

A lone piper led Ireland’s Ambassador to Belgium, Tom Hanney, down Rue l’Etuve to perform the official unveiling.

There was no mention of the bailout, recession and that struggle over tax with France and Germany. “In Ireland everything is happy and green,” said Edmond Vandenhaute, president of the order.

As the ambassador revealed the new outfit, the statue sprayed the audience, many of them wearing green. Tayto crisps were thrown to the crowd, pints of Guinness were poured and Kimberley, Mikado and Coconut Creams were handed out.

Standing in the crowd with two friends from Gibraltar was Suzanne O’Doherty from Glounthaune in Co Cork, who has lived in Brussels since 1969.

St Patrick’s Day stills mean something to her but do tough times back home register in Belgium?

“Ireland is pretty much in the newspapers here although I will say that recently the fact that we have no government in Belgium has kind of taken over,” she said. ARTHUR BEESLEY