Greater Garda presence only a precaution – St Patrick’s Festival CEO
Dublin parade one of the most ‘democratic’ art presentations in the country
The chief executive of St Patrick’s Festival has encouraged people not to worry about reports of increased anti-terrorism security measures in the capital.
Speaking on the first day of the festival, Susan Kirby said she expected significant numbers to turn out for Dublin’s St Patrick’s Day parade on Saturday, and that the increased Garda presence was only a precautionary measure.
At least 20 large vehicles, including fire tenders and Civil Defence trucks, will be parked along the Dublin parade route on Saturday, while the Armed Response Unit and Emergency Response Unit will also feature as part of a Garda anti-terrorism operation.
“As I understand it, there’s been no change to Ireland’s security status,” said Ms Kirby. “We work very closely with the Garda, and we support all precautionary measures that they put in place. There would have always been quite significant security measures in place for St Patrick’s Day as long as I’ve been attached to the festival. A number of major events in Ireland would have had similar measures over the last year.”
Ms Kirby, who joined St Patrick’s Festival in 2007 and has been at the helm since 2009, said she hoped this year’s theme of “Home” would be reflective of a more diverse, inclusive and integrated Ireland. The festival’s City Fusion community arts programme had been working with groups from around the capital to build a pageant which “honours the value in one’s own individual identity”, she said.
“We work with groups from all over the world – Polish, Filipino, Lithuanian, Bolivian, Indian, Brazilian, Peruvian, Syrian . . . different ages, levels – we bring them all together. The Simon Community is participating this year, the Irish Wheelchair Association, LGBTQ:Pride. It really brings life to the diversity of Ireland.
“What do we want our home to be, who is this Ireland we live in, and who will she be in 100 years?”
Ms Kirby said the event had evolved into a “multidisciplinary arts festival” that was accessible to all ages, and which she hoped would continue to grow both nationally and internationally.
“Given the scale and accessibility of the parade, it’s probably one of the most democratic presentations of the arts that we’ve witnessed in this country.
“You don’t have to go into a venue, you don’t need money for a ticket, there’s no barrier to experiencing art in this forum. If you witness it at a young age, and show children that sense of performance, it can be a very powerful thing.”