Salsa dancers, serpents and sliotars at Galway parade

City’s ethnic mix evident among participants who marched from the Claddagh to Eyre Square

“Patrick was a migrant too” read one of the placards in Galway’s parade, and the city’s diverse ethnic mix was evident among the many participants.

In cool, cloudy and almost dry conditions, stilt-walkers, salsa dancers and a serpent with a large slit in his tail wove through the streets from the Claddagh to Eyre Square, watched by several thousand people.

Twirling green, white and gold parasols, the synchronised Galway Filipino Irish community drew some of the loudest cheers, with a warm response also for the primary school bands from Shantalla, the Claddagh, Renmore, Tirellan and beyond.

“The Sea”, this year’s theme, was embraced, loosely interpreted, or ignored altogether by participants, but the RNLI lifeboat volunteers had their lifejackets, the 24th Galway sea scouts had a bád mór, while the Polish community, marking ten years in the EU, had commandeered a motorboat.


Justice for asylum seekers and refugees was Amnesty International's message, and the Galway Traveller Movement marked its 20th birthday with a brightly decorated cardboard cake. Parade participation was the first in a series of events which the Traveller community has planned for its celebratory year.

“I’d love to see the size of the hurl!” whooped one onlooker as the GAA Liam Mellows team rolled a giant “sliotar” up Lr Dominick Street, while other sporting groups included Castlegar GAA and the helmeted Galway Pitbulls Online hockey club.

Westside Community Garden growers pushed wheelbarrows, and the ever-loyal Breton Lorient community, twinned with Galway, came with their pipers. Guest of honour for the 111th annual Galway parade was six-times Irish dancing world champion Claire Greaney from Claregalway.

Excessive soaking of the shamrock has deterred families from lingering long in the city centre in recent years, but organiser Caroline McDonagh had planned an alcohol-free series of events in Woodquay during the early afternoon.

Displays of Tai Chi, salsa, swing, tango dancing and Brazilian capoeira were programmed in association with the Galway Dance Project, and teddy bears had their star turn with a picnic in Woodquay park, hosted with Enable Ireland.

DJ Willy Softly was master of ceremonies for a "family disco" and there were juggling and acrobatic performances by the Galway Community Circus.

Recording it all on camera was Kamil Krolak, who managed to get most of the city dancing for his "Galway is also Happy" video, based on the Pharrell Williams hit "Happy", which has had over 150,000 YouTube hits since being uploaded last month.

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins is the former western and marine correspondent of The Irish Times