‘The Guinness is great’ – Thousands pack into Dublin city for St Patrick’s Day parade

Celebrations across country while about 400,000 attend in Dublin

Thousands of people packed into Dublin city centre for the first St Patrick’s Day parade in two years, the crowd a throng of green, tricolours, shamrocks and leprechaun costumes.

The parade opened with a show of solidarity with the people of Ukraine, with a group of Irish and Ukrainians carrying symbols of both countries – shamrocks of Ireland and sunflowers of Ukraine.

The group walked down O’Connell Street holding the flags of Ireland and Ukraine. Racheal Diyaolu, a medical student from Carlow who was forced to flee Ukraine following the Russian invasion, was among the group, carrying the blue and yellow flag of Ukraine.

The parade started from Parnell Square shortly before 1pm, with the route coming down O'Connell Street, moving around College Green and Dame Street, looping down Lord Edward Street, past St Patrick's Cathedral, to finish on Kevin Street at around 3pm.

Tom Yingling (53) from Vancouver, Canada, was among the crowd, having made a “bucket list” trip to Ireland for the first time.

Decked out in a green sequined shamrock suit, he said he had wanted to visit Ireland his “ whole life”, making the trip with his son Jack and a colleague.

“Yesterday morning we got in about 8am, and we hit the town last night, went to Temple Bar, went and did the Guinness factory tour,” he said.

“People are friendly, and the Guinness is great,” he said.

Dressed as a leprechaun, Mathias Machek (42), from Vienna, Austria, was another of the many tourists in the crowd who had travelled to Dublin for St Patrick’s Day. “Last year we said we wanted to come but corona, this year we said we’d come, and make some party,” he said.

After the parade he said he would be heading to Temple Bar, and a planned tour of the city would have to wait until tomorrow.

Mariya Osadchuk, a Ukrainian woman living in Ireland, said the gesture of solidarity at the start of the parade was “very nice”. The Irish people had been “very friendly” to the women and children of Ukraine since the outbreak of war in her country, she said.

Elsewhere in the crowd, four-year-old Nina was at the parade with her parents, Michelle Considine and Harry Buckless. “She’s really excited, we went on one of the fairground rides over at the quays,” her mother said.

The atmosphere in Temple Bar was jovial throughout the afternoon, with the large crowds in good spirits, and no sense of trouble.

Parade

Festival organisers said as many as 400,000 people could be in Dublin city for the celebrations.

Olympic and Paralympic sporting heroes Kellie Harrington and Ellen Keane are the grand marshals of the parade, with Irish-American actor John C Reilly, who starred in the film Step Brothers, the international guest of honour.

Harrington described the opportunity to parade through her local streets as “fantastic”.

“For myself and Ellen to be grand marshals, two female athletes, it’s amazing and it shows the strength in female sport, it’s always been there,” she said.

“To be chosen to walk through our city as grand marshals is fantastic. It’s great to show younger kids coming up that if they work hard they can achieve anything.”

Dublin city centre off-licences have been asked not to sell alcohol until 4pm, to prevent crowds drinking alcohol on the streets, particularly while families are in Dublin city for the parade. Restaurants and pubs have also been asked to ensure any alcohol sold was consumed on the premises.

There will be more than 650 gardaí working in Dublin city centre on Thursday, with gardaí warning there will be a “zero tolerance” approach to on-street drinking. Stewards and gardaí are to manage the flow of people into Temple Bar, in order to control the crowds in the popular tourist spot.

Cork city

Meanwhile, a charity which played a vital role in the transportation of blood samples, medication, equipment and human donor milk to medical centres all over Ireland throughout the pandemic served as the grand marshal of the Cork city Patrick’s Day parade.

Martin O’Driscoll, Chairman of Blood Bike South, joked that the volunteers were surprised to find themselves out in daylight hours – much less in such a prestigious role.

“We were formed in 2012 so it is our 10th anniversary this year. At the moment we have about 65 volunteers on our books.

“We are nothing special. We just do our work and get on with it. We are delighted [to be grand marshals] of the parade. “

More than 50,000 people attended the festivities which got underway in Cork city centre shortly after 1pm. The theme of the parade was “Heroes – Ordinary People in Extraordinary Times”. Participants included Rebel Wheelers, Mayfield GAA, the Indian Community Cork, the Cork Barrack Street Band, Sanctuary Runners and the Rising Sun School of Karate.

It featured more than 2,500 local community participants and visiting groups from the US – including Massachusetts State Troopers, Philadelphia Irish Trad Tours and the Bixby Ruby group from Oklahoma.

Poignantly, Polish support group, Together Razem, were led out by recent Ukrainian arrivals to Cork. They were in turn supported by individuals from Poland, Romania, Moldova, Hungary, Georgia and Lithuania.

The group received a rapturous reception from the crowd with the annual sea of green white and gold flags being interspersed with Ukrainian flags in a show of solidarity with individuals from the war-torn country.

Nationwide

There were also parades in Galway, Limerick, Waterford and many other towns and villages across the country.

Throughout the northwest, Ukrainian families , frontline healthcare workers and GAA stars were among those honoured at St Patrick’s Day parades.

Recent arrivals from Ukraine to Leitrim were chosen to lead the parade in Carrick-on-Shannon, while healthcare workers were honoured at the festivities in Boyle, Co Roscommon.

Colm McGrath, president of Carrick chamber of commerce which organised the celebration in the town, said they had invited recently arrived Ukrainian refugees to be grand marshals “to show that the people of Carrick and of Leitrim stand beside them at this time”.

Mr McGrath who has welcomed three generations of one Ukrainian family into his home said there had been an outpouring of support in the county for people whose lives have been turned upside down, and the parade was an opportunity to show solidarity.

Meanwhile in nearby Cootehall, the organisers of Ardcarne parish parade chose their parish priest Fr Brendan McDonagh to be St Patrick for the day, but it was Roscommon GAA stalwarts, brothers Donie and Enda Smith who were invited to lead the parade through the village as grand marshalls.

There was a festive atmosphere in Cootehall with much of the action located in the vicinity of the John McGahern Barracks Museum, once home to the writer and his siblings, and where their father Frank served as sergeant.

The organisers of the parade in Boyle, Co Roscommon, used the opportunity to pay tribute to healthcare staff for their contribution during the pandemic. The grand marshals were nurse Shini Joy from the Plunkett nursing care unit and Cathy Weston, director of care at Drumderrig House.

“It’s just a way to say thank you to all healthcare workers who have been through a lot for the last two years,” said Lorcan Egan, one of the parade organisers.

In Sligo, mayor of the town, Cllr Arthur Gibbons, urged the crowd to try to forget their cares for the day. “This is a day for the Irish all over the world,” he said. “We have had a horrible two years of lockdown which brought the country nearly to its knees”.

The Sinn Féin councillor acknowledged the pain caused by the war in Ukraine and said it was important to send a message “of love and luck” from Irish people.

“I would say to people leave your worries to tomorrow and have this day to remember,” he added.

The sun shone brightly on Shannonside as thousands waved and cheered on the Limerick City parade.

Members of the Defence Forces, along with the Boherbuoy Brass Band and members of the Limerick All Ireland hurling champions, led marchers, carrying the Liam MacCarthy Cup, and kicking off four days of festivities.

The flag of Ukraine was carried alongside the tricolour to show Limerick’s solidarity with the war torn country.

Participants marched and danced their way along a new route from O’Connell Avenue through Henry Street and on to City Hall as the city’s main thoroughfare O’Connell Street is being redeveloped.

The Polish Ambassador to Ireland Anna Sochanska and the Israel Ambassador to Ireland Lironne Bar-Sade joined local dignitaries at the parade-stand at Arthur’s Quay Park in celebrating the theme of ‘Belonging and Identity’.

Members of the All Ireland Wheelchair Hurling Champions, Munster, also led out the parade, including senior captain Ellie Sheehy, Maurice Noonan, and club mates Saoirse Whelan, and Cormac Downey.

“It’s surreal, definitely, is one to word to describe it, I don’t think we ever expected it but were loving it,” said Ms Sheehy, (19), from Templeglantine.

“It’s great atmosphere, a great start to the year, hopefully we’ll keep going and inspire one another,” said Mr Noonan (22), who was crowned Wheelchair Hurler of the Year 2019.

The yellow and blue colours of Ukraine blossomed among the green, white, and orange injecting a fever of colour through the thronged streets of the Treaty City.

Giant turtles, scout and cub groups, pint-sized traditional Irish dancers, stilt-walking angels, shamrocks, shenanigans, and silvery hurling cups were the order of the day as crowds enjoyed the first major outdoor gathering since Covid-19 restrictions were eased earlier this year.

The students of Limerick’s Spotlight Stageschool injected more showbiz as hundreds of local organisations marched their way through 10 parades in all across the county.

One of the most colourful of the smaller parades took place in the town of Bruff, where eleven year old DJ Grimes, who suffers from the rare Bardet Biedl syndrome and will loose his sight, added another dream day to his personal bucket list, as the parade’s Grand Marshall.

The festivities continue with Fidget Feet Aerial Dance Theatre join ing fire performance company ROGU at the Potato Market in Limerick on Saturday.

On Sunday, 15 bands and hundreds of musicians from across America and Europe will battle it out with local groups to be crowned winners of the 50th Limerick Internal Band Championships.