St Patrick’s Day: Cultural feast all over Ireland

Parades feature Celtic warriors,Yeats lookalikes, fish and a gentle giant bear

Cork Broadcaster and rugby pundit George Hook said he was “blown away” with emotion after serving as grand marshal in the St Patrick’s

Day parade in Cork city.

Hook, who grew up on Albert Road in the city, said it was a huge honour to lead the parade in Leeside.

“For a fella from ‘Jewtown’ in Cork’s Albert Road to be walking down here in front of whatever number of thousand Cork people you cannot imagine,” he told Cork’s 96FM. “There was a suggestion that because I have a new knee I might need a car and I said ‘no way, I am walking every step of the way’.”


The Cork parade got under way at 1pm on the South Mall. It moved on to Grand Parade, St Patrick’s Street before finishing at Merchant’s Quay.

About 50,000 spectators attended the festivities, with 3,000 people participating in the parade. The theme this year was culture, marking the 10th anniversary of Cork’s year as European Capital of Culture.

A highlight of the Cork city parade included the Bódhran Bookills – made up of 55 schoolboys from St Joseph’s NS. The boys played the bódhran en masse while dressed as Celtic warriors. They had previously played for Queen Elizabeth II during her state visit in 2011.

Parades were held in Carrigaline, Clonakilty, Blarney, Cobh and Coppeen, which has a population of less than 100 people. Yesterday’s was the village’s 43rd parade.


The earliest St Patrick’s Day parade in the country took place in Dingle.

The pre-dawn parade of a band of fife and drum musicians circled the Co Kerry town at 6am, re-enacting the period when parades were banned in daylight.

Killarney, which had been staging a St Patrick’s Day festival since Sunday, saw the biggest and most colourful parade in the tourist town’s history with a new departure this year, a new route and a complete ban on float-carrying trucks.

St Mary’s Cathedral was in green and schools opened their car parks to accommodate the crowds.

Tralee’s parade took place at noon with the theme of “Active Tralee” and in Killorglin the parade took its theme from the myths associated with the Laune river which flows through the town.


Thousands of people took part in St Patrick’s Day parades and celebrations across the North.

For the first time Stormont was among the landmark buildings to “go green” in honour of Ireland’s patron saint.

A cross-community 10km run and a parade in Belfast that snaked from City Hall to Custom House Square attracted huge crowds.

The Lord Mayor, Nichola Mallon, took to Twitter to share her thoughts on the carnival atmosphere.

“Huge snakes, gigantic St Patricks and wee St Patricks, colour, music and dance,” the SDLP first citizen wrote.

“Belfast has it all. Happy St Patrick’s Day.”

Innova Irish Dance Company, Sollus Highland dancers, Louis Walsh's newest boyband, HomeTown, and former Blue singer Simon Webbe were among those entertaining revellers at a free concert in Belfast city centre.

Green-themed parties took place across Northern Ireland, with parades also being held in Armagh, Derry, Downpatrick, Enniskillen, Newry and Omagh.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, delivered a sermon in Co Down and took part in a pilgrimage walk to Downpatrick, where he laid a wreath at St Patrick's grave before joining a parade through the town.

In Armagh, the leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin, delivered the homily at St Patrick's Cathedral.

“All over the world today people of many creeds, languages and race are celebrating our national saint, St Patrick,” he said. “It is a testimony to the tremendous outreach to the rest of the world that Ireland has had over many centuries.”

Stormont had been lit purple for International Women’s Day and yesterday the building was lit green to mark St Patrick’s Day. It will go orange for the Twelfth of July commemorations and then red on November 11th to mark Remembrance Day.


If he is up there somewhere, hiding his face “amid a crowd of stars” over Ben Bulben and Knocknarea, William Butler Yeats probably soared closer to Sligo on St Patrick’s Day to see his name writ large on the festivities.

The poet’s name was, of course, being invoked at celebrations all over the world as the year-long celebration of his 150th birthday continues. But in Sligo he seemed to be everywhere, thanks in no small part to the “150 shades of Yeats” entry in the town’s parade which featured dozens of participants wearing Yeats masks who were endeavouring to create a record for the most Yeats lookalikes gathered in one place.

The man himself might have been taken aback by some of the tributes. The Irish Kidney Association took the Adjudicators’ Cup for their Yeats having a transplant float while local bakery O’Hehir’s decorated their Lake Isle of Innisfree float with a huge “Happy Birthday WB” placard and a signpost pointing the way to Ben Bulben, Lissadell, Kiltartan Cross and Byzantium.

The organiser of the Sligo parade, Deirdre Healy McGowan, reckoned that a combination of blue skies, blanket social media coverage and “the Yeats factor” had brought out record crowds. Gardaí estimated that up to 30,000 people lined the 3km route.

The loudest applause was probably for the Sligo Leitrim Filipino Association, whose dancing exhibition won them the overall award at the parade.


“More fish and less ships” was among the important environmental messages delivered at this year’s St Patrick’s Day in Limerick, which attracted crowds of over 70,000 people.

Glorious sunshine added to the occasion with some 68 floats taking part in the spring-themed event.

The transition-year students from John the Baptist School in Hospital, Co Limerick received a special award for their creative entry aimed at promoting a world with sustainable fishing.

Their slogan “Fish ‘N Ships – More fish and less ships” was designed to highlight the dangers associated with overfishing, which has major implications for the future of fish stocks and the health of our oceans.

Named after the Limerick-based artist and teacher Martin Folan the award was presented for the most creative entry.

The colourful costumes worn by the children from Spotlight Stage School were equally matched by impressive dance moves, which saw the pupils awarded the prize for the best performance.

Fresh from their weekend win in Birmingham – the third largest St Patrick’s Day parade in the world – the Limerick City Rhythm Marching Band won the award for best musical performance.

Among those enjoying the Limerick parade at the review stand were Minister for Finance Michael Noonan and Fianna Fáil deputy Willie O’Dea.

Internationally acclaimed aerial dance theatre company Fidget Feet were the grand marshals, having been chosen to lead the parade due to the contribution they made during Limerick’s reign as national City of Culture. The Irish aerial dance and contemporary circus specialists are now based in Limerick, where they recently opened the country’s first Aerial Creation Centre.


Floats and groups taking part in the Waterford city parade represented the old and the new, from its seafaring traditions and old sporting and cultural customs to modern-day activities enjoyed by today’s citizens.

Former All-Star hurler Tony Browne was this year’s grand marshal as the parade made its way from The Glen, along the quays, around Reginald’s Tower and onto The Mall, where dignitaries watched from a viewing platform, before ending at Parnell Street.

The theme for this year’s parade was “Together We’re Better”, reflecting the first St Patrick’s Day since the city and county councils were merged.

The parade drew thousands of viewers and they watched as hundreds of scouts from around Waterford led the way along with volunteers from the fire service, civil defence and reserve naval service, with many other groups following in their wake.

Sporting groups such as GAA clubs, football, boxing, basketball and other clubs joined with traditional Irish dancers as well as newer dance troupes along with martial arts organisations, marching bands and more.

There were representations from some of the migrant communities who have made their homes in Waterford, such as the Filipino Irish Community branch, and groups from Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo and India.

The Spraoi group provided its now customary large-scale models such as a large, flipping fish and a Viking-style ship, while the Children’s Group Link showed off some impressive craftwork featuring copies of landmarks like the Master McGrath monument outside Dungarvan and the Metalman in Tramore.

Fire engines old and new and the Order of Malta were the last to proceed along the route and a playing of Amhrán na bhFiann brought events to a close.


Thousands of people took advantage of stunning spring sunshine to make the Letterkenny parade one of the most memorable in Co Donegal for many years.

Floats and features with everything from miniature ponies to vintage cars made their way down the town’s Main Street.

Other floats included Blaze Basketball Club, St Eunan’s GAA Club, the local Polish school, Blue Ribbon Dance and Drama Group, the Letterkenny Town Band, the Letterkenny Gaels GAA club as well as anti-austerity groups.

Among the dignitaries invited to observe the parade was Dr Philip Boyce, Bishop of Raphoe.

The parade was led by the local Reserve Defence Force who took the salute from Comdt Donal McCafferty.

Toni Forrester, chief executive of the Letterkenny Chamber, said the parade was a huge success.

“The weather really added to the day and the crowds really did come out in their numbers. Everything passed off peacefully and it was great to see so many individuals and groups put in so much effort for the parade.

Among the interested spectators was a group of nine middle-aged women who had travelled from Scotland dressed as nuns. “We’ve got some strange reactions but we had so much fun. Not too many Irish nuns must hang around pub doors drinking pints of Guinness,” said one of the women outside McGinley’s Bar on the town’s Lower Main Street.

A Garda spokesman said the county’s biggest parade had passed off without any incident.


Saints may be too sinless for sunburn, but St Patrick could have done with a bit of sunblock in Galway as unseasonally warm weather drew thousands out into the streets.

Parade guest of honour was performer, musician and storyteller Little John Nee, who is currently staging a series of autobiographical shows in his adopted home.

Galway is bidding for the European capital of culture title in 2020, and so “culture” and “creative spirit” was this year’s theme.

It’s also Ireland’s “most multicultural” city,with more than 23 per cent new Irish, declared master of ceremonies and arts officer James Harrold as he urged a warm welcome for the Russian Culture Club, the Galway Filipino Irish, the South African, Congolese and Polish communities.

Jugglers, hula-hoopers and stiltwalkers from Galway Community Circus, An Taibhdhearc theatre and Cúirt literary festival hosts were among participants, while Colours Street Theatre towed a seven-foot straw Cúchulainn, with a salmon of knowledge and swans pursued by a bark-and-pine-cone rat.

And “this is what a feminist looks like” declared members of the Galway Feminist Collective, with veteran artist and activist Margaretta D’Arcy among its participants. Ms D’Arcy, who served time in prison last year over her opposition to US military use of Shannon, wore a mask representing the face of Ireland, wounded and streaming with blood.

Former NUI Galway scientist Micheline Sheehy Skeffington and supporters bore banners appealing for equality and for promotion of female colleagues, while Amnesty International highlighted violence against women in Mexico, and the Right 2 Water campaign and its river gods embraced all shades of blue.

Animal rescue volunteers from Madra came with four-legged companions, to the delight of canine spectators such as Tadhg, an eight-year-old Irish wolfhound from Connemara. However, the parade theme became ever more elastic when several commercial interests advertised their wares.

Recapturing the artistic spirit were the Bugale an Oriant dancers from Lorient, France, and Macnas’s Youth Ensemble’s troupe of trainers and wild animals performed a rolling finale, complete with top-hatted ring mistress and gentle giant bear.