Hundreds of thousands of spectators are expected to throng the streets of cities and towns across the country for this year’s St Patrick’s Day parades.
The largest contingent of overseas visitors to date is set to arrive for the celebrations because of the proximity to the 1916 Rising centenary weekend, according to Fáilte Ireland.
“Because of the closeness of Easter and the commemorations to St Patrick’s Day it makes it a more attractive proposition, particularly for long-haul travellers. We would be expecting to easily exceed 125,000 visitors, up from over 100,000 last year,” a spokesman said.
Almost 60 parades and many more cultural events and festivals will take place throughout the county, but the largest will be in Dublin city where more than 500,000 spectators are anticipated for the main national parade.
The annual St Patrick's Day parade in Belfast will be a "spectacular carnival of colour and character", according to the Lord Mayor of the city, Sinn Féin's Arder Carson. Beat Carnival performers, dancers, musicians and a range of community groups will leave City Hall at noon on Thursday and snake their way through the streets before finishing up at Custom House Square where a free concert will be held.
Former X Factor winner Ben Haenow will headline the concert hosted by Cool FM presenters Pete Snodden, Paulo Ross and Rebecca McKinney. One half of newly formed Boyzlife ‘supergroup’, Brian McFadden, who had a string of number one singles with Westlife, will also be performing, as will Irish dance group Innova.
The Belfast Boys' Model Drummers and traditional music group Altagore will also help everyone get in the party spirit and the line up is completed by Belfast singer songwriter, Triona Carville, the first local artist to make it to Cool FM's Shazam charts with her cover of Ash song, Shining Light.
Mr Carson is encouraging people from all sections of the community to take part and enjoy themselves alongside tourists visiting Belfast for the celebrations. “This year’s spectacular carnival parade, produced by Beat Carnival, celebrates the colour, character and diversity that is Belfast,” he said. “Featuring dancers, musicians, floats and performers the parade will travel through the heart of the city centre.
“Come and view it from Donegall Place and Royal Avenue as it makes its way to Custom House Square in time for the start of the concert.
"Community groups from across the city are taking part in the St Patrick's Day Parade which will be an eye catching carnival to attract thousands of locals and visitors alike so I hope everyone will take up the invitation and have a great time," Mr Carson said. Parades will also be held in Armagh, Derry and other locations across the North.
Ninety-seven-year-old Patrick 'Pakie' Wall from Ballydineen, Kilmihil in west Clare will be front and centre of Thursday's Ennis St. Patrick's Day Parade, when he assumes the role of Grand Marshall.
Patrick was selected for the position following a nomination process through Clare County Council for the oldest living Patrick in Clare to join Mayor of Ennis, Pat Daly in leading the parade in a horse-drawn carriage.
The two will be followed by approximately 50 groups representing the many aspects of life in Ennis and County Clare.
More than 10,000 people are expected to line the streets of Ennis and the theme of this year’s parade is ‘Clare County of Culture’ in recognition of the celebration and promotion of Clare as a County of Culture in the lead up to the hosting of Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann, in Ennis this August.
Ahead of the parade, a Certificate of Recognition will be presented to Mr Wall outside the council’s headquarters. The presentation will be made Anna Whelan who is a 5th class pupil from Ballyea National School where Pakie attended from 1923 to 1931.
The parade commences at 11am from Clare County Council’s headquarters before proceeding via New Road, Newbridge Road, Club Bridge, Abbey Street, O’Connell Square, O’Connell Street, with walkers finishing in the grounds of the Holy Family School, Station Road.
Clare County Council is seeking to make the 2016 Ennis St Patrick’s Day Parade a countywide affair with artistic, cultural and sporting groups together with schools, scouts and a range of community groups from all over Clare taking part.
This year’s St Patrick’s Day Parade in Cork will be led not by a Grand Marshall but by seven actors performing as the seven signatories of the 1916 Proclamation and re-enacting scenes from the Easter Rising as they lead over 3,000 participants through the streets of Cork.
The parade, which will also featured a 10 foot high puppet of Patrick Pearse, courtesy of Dowcha Puppets, will start at 1pm on Thursday and will proceed through the city centre from the South Mall to the Grand Parade, along St. Patrick’s Street before finishing at Merchant’s Quay.
Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Chris O’Leary said that the re-enactment, performed by actors from ‘Revolution’, a specially commissioned set of plays written and directed by Eoin Hally, should bring the events of 1916 to life as part of a wider commemorative programme.
“The theme for this year’s parade is ‘1916 the Legacy’ and there is nothing more appropriate than the representation of the seven signatories of our Proclamation through pageantry and theatre,” said Cllr O’Leary, the first Sinn Féin Mayor of Cork in over 90 years.
“I think it will be a fitting tribute given this unique anniversary year, and hearing extracts from the Proclamation along the parade route should be a really special moment. We are expecting over 80,000 people to descend on Cork for the four day St Patrick’s Festival.”
Up to 50 floats are set to take part in Co Donegal's biggest parade which takes place in Letterkenny. The theme of the parade will be 'Ireland 100 Years on — The Rhythm of our Nation.'
The parade, which starts at 3pm, which be officially launched by Army Cmdt Donal McCafferty, OCC with the 28th Battalion at Finner Camp who will read the Proclamation.
Chief executive officer of Letterkenny Chamber, Ms Toni Forrestor, said she was looking forward to a colourful day on the streets of Co Donegal’s largest town.
She said she expects up to 10,000 people will line the town’s Main Street for the annual parade.
“We are hoping it will have a theme that reflects how far we have come since the Rising, hence the theme of our parade. I know that a lot of groups have been working on various floats which should look terrific.
“We have been blessed with some really good weather and I’m just hoping that it continues for St Patrick’s Day itself,” she said.
Among those taking part in the parade in Letterkenny will be the local Blue Ribbon Arts group and Blaze Basketball as well as a number of community based organisations.
The Dublin parade, led by disability rights campaigner Joanne O’Riordan, will start at noon from Parnell Square and finish at St Patrick’s Cathedral at 2.30pm after winding its way along the “civic spine” of the city down O’Connell Street and up Dame Street.
At 19, Ms O’Riordan is the youngest ever grand marshal for the event. She is one of only seven people in the world with tetra-amelia syndrome in which individuals are born without limbs.
Waterford-based company Spraoi will make its 20th Dublin parade appearance with its pageant entitled 'Home, Above and Below'. The Inishowen Carnival Group from Donegal will be presenting a show with sci-fi connotations called 'Cyberactive'.
Dowtcha, a Cork-based group of puppet and street theatre specialists, have a more earthy feel to their pageant in the Dublin parade called Coillte Nua. Spectators can expect wild boar, rabbits, and giant elk roaming among animated oak trees. Brighter Futures youth community programme’s show, ‘Laura Goes to Mars’ imagines life on the red planet.
Parade-goers will be able to access the city by tram as a planned Luas strike has been called off. The Red Line service will run as far as Smithfield until the parade ends and then will resume a normal service.
Dublin Bus will operate a Sunday timetable with diversions to accommodate the parade route and funfairs. There will be no Nitelink service.
Dart and commuter trains will also operate to Sunday service but with extra trains before and after the parade. Tara Street Station will be closed until 4pm. Intercity services will will operate to a revised schedule with details at irishrail.ie
The parade in Galway will get under way at 11.30am on Fr Griffin Road and there will be over 50 participants.
The guest of honour will be Druid Theatre co-founder Marie Mullen and the parade will follow its traditional route along Dominick Street, Bridge Street, Mainguard Street, Shop Street and on to Prospect Hill via the viewing stand at Eyre Square.
The parade will take about an hour and 15 minutes to travel along the route and while it will disperse at the Dyke Road car park, many of the bands and musicians will return to Eyre Square for further performances.
Parade director Frank Cummins said that there will be a great variety among the participants, including everything “from bicycles to monster trucks” and there will be plenty of entertainment for children.
The parade will have a strong 1916 commemoration theme, especially among participating schools, but it will also be looking to a key date in the future.
Gary McMahon of Galway City Council said the city’s bid to be the European Capital of Culture 2020 would be a central part of the parade.
A crowd of around 25,000 is expected to view the Galway parade which will also host a number of bands from abroad, including one from its twin city St Louis, Missouri, while Macnas will feature in the parade.
The international flavour will also include the Galway Filipino Irish Community, the South African Community Group and the Russian Culture Club
Parades will also take place at towns and villages throughout Co Galway with the welcome good weather set to boost attendances.
Killarney, which traditionally hosts one of the biggest parades in the southwest is to go green this year with the five town stone churches from the huge Pugin designed St Mary's Cathedral to the town's Methodist Church, all going green .
Thousands of visitors are already in town for this year’s themed festival celebrating past, present and future. Viewers are encouraged to arrive in either 1916 or 2016 costumes. In Tralee, the past is the theme and main event will celebrate the town’s foundation by the Anglo Norman FitzThomas Fitzgeralds, 800 years ago. It is the first of the year log celebrations of Tralee’s rich history.
Almost every town and village in Kerry has a celebration this year, many with 1916 to the fore .
The county's parades get off to an early start with the first parade in the country in Dingle due before day breaks.
At 6am the Dingle Fife and Drum bandparaded through the sleeping streets – by-passing the new snake pit at the Dingle Aquarium.
At 10am at the mouth of Dingle Peninsula it is the turn of the Milltown parade in mid-Kerry. This is followed by the main Tralee event at noon.
Castlemaine begins at 12pm also.
In deep south Kerry in the westerly seaboard, the Sneem parade is at 12.15pm; Cahersiveen is at 2pm and Waterville at 4pm.
Castleisland is at 1pm and Killorglin is also at 1pm .
Then it is the turn of Killarney which has a whole festival planned around this year’s St Patrick’s week. Often the most colourful in the county, the Killarney parade is watched by thousands of visitors and kicks off at 2pm.
In the north-west, the Ballyheigue parade scheduled for 3pm. The seaside village has a special reason to celebrate this year given it now has a TD in local pharmacist John Brassil of Fianna Fáil. Ballybunion and Castlegregory parades are also at 3pm.
The theme of this year’s St Patrick’s Day Parade is ‘Commemorate’, which seeks to promote Limerick’s legacy, its peoples and its places. Actor, director and playwright, Myles Breen is this year’s Grand Marshall, while pop duo Jedward are also taking part.
Edward and John have strong family ties to Limerick, including their grand uncle Vincent Feeney who was once the mayor of the city.
The parade starts at 12pm at Punches Cross on O’Connell Avenue following straight down O’Connell Street and Patrick Street and finishing up on Bridge Street.
An estimated 80,000 people are expected to line the streets to watch more than 4,000 parade participants from 100 different community groups, companies, bands and sports clubs from across Limerick and Ireland.
The St Patrick’s festivities continue from 12 noon on Sunday March 20th when 1,200 musicians from 15 groups, including a 280-strong marching band from the University of Missouri, take part in the 46th Limerick International Band Championship.
Parade organiser Deirdre Healy McGowan is confident that Countess Markievicz will be popping up on more than one float in Sligo town, given that 1916 is the theme of this year’s event,and her ancestral home in Lissadell is within striking distance.
The Sligo parade will kick off at noon at Mail Coach Road, with about 70 floats , seven bands, and an assortment of school children and sporting clubs due make their way through the traditional route via Adelaide street, Wine Street, and Bridge Street, ending up on Pearse road.
Sligo Tidy Towns Committee, who last year brought dozens of W B Yeats lookalikes onto the streets for the St Patrick Day celebrations, are blending military and environmental themes this year with a ‘War on Waste’ entry. Dozens of volunteers some attired as toy soldiers and others as “Roses of Rubbish” will spread the anti-litter message to the expected 25,000 spectators.
"I'm still getting calls from people interested in taking part at this stage", said Healy McGowan on Wednesday. "We know it's going to be sunny and because of the 1916 theme there is a lot of excitement about this year's parade". She says everyone from Humpty Dumpty to members of the Sligo Rovers squad are expected.
In Kiltyclogher, Co Leitrim, home of another 1916 leader Sean MacDiarmada, the parade organisers are holding a centenary-themed event, with participants in period costume, and all motorised vehicles banned from the parade.
The Kiltyclogher parade kicks off at 1pm , with a shuttle bus running from the Ballroom of Romance in nearby Glenfarne, starting at 12.30pm.
The county’s cultural diversity will be celebrated at a colourful and eventful St Patrick’s Day Parade in the city. The annual parade will be accompanied by a schedule packed full of activities throughout the day.
Led by local broadcasting legend and Grand Marshall Eddie Wymberry, the parade will kick off at 1pm. The route is unchanged from last year, starting at the Bus Eireann Bus Station and moving up the quay towards The Mall before finishing at the start of Parnell Street.
The theme of this year’s parade is ‘Three Sisters 2020: Celebrating Waterford’s Cultural Diversity’. The Three Sister’s bid sees Waterford, Kilkenny and Wexford in a joint initiative to become European Capital of Culture 2020. Included in the 15 floats in the parade will be one featuring children wearing the different colours of the three counties that are involved in the bid.
As the parade is all about cultural diversity it will include a number of important international entries. For the first time, members of the Ukrainian community will take part. Members of the Filipino community, who won Best Community Float last year, will return with a new colourful creation. In total 60 community groups including Spraoi will be involved. The Purple Flag’s new mascot ‘Hoot’ will be in the mix. In addition to the parade, a series of events will be staged in the city centre. It will feature entertainment from local bands, amusement rides and a treasure hunt. Traffic restrictions will apply until the conclusion of the parade at 2pm.