Up to 40,000 people flock to see parade in Downpatrick

Patron saint’s day celebrated by thousands in cities and towns across Northern Ireland

The Fire Poise in action at the St Patrick’s day parade in Newry. Photograph: Pacemaker

The day was celebrated by several thousand people in cities and towns across Northern Ireland, with the main parades in Downpatrick, Derry, Armagh, Enniskillen and Omagh.

Downpatrick held its biggest and most successful cross-community parade yesterday, which was the culmination of seven days of activities.

According to the organisers, up to 40,000 people thronged the Co Down town to witness the parade of 63 floats featuring more than 1,300 participants.

Early yesterday morning in the town, worshippers joined the pilgrimage prayer walk from Saul to Down Cathedral, while others went to the Slaney river to watch a reconstruction of St Patrick arriving in Ireland almost 1,600 years ago.

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At night for the past week, the main buildings of St Patrick’s Centre, Down Cathedral and St Patrick’s Church were illuminated.

The chairwoman of the council, Maria McCarthy, described the day and the illuminations as “fabulous”.

“These much-loved buildings were lit up green and have generated a real buzz about the town and on social media.

“We certainly celebrated Irish culture with prayer and pilgrimages, parades, plenty of dancing and music, special foods and a whole lot of green.”

An estimated 14,000 people lined the streets to enjoy the parade in Derry, which along with St Patrick featured floats, a giant colourful dragon, musicians, acrobats and dancers.

There was great excitement for the festivities in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh. A large crowd also enjoyed the parade and open-air concert in Omagh, Co Tyrone, where the theme was connecting cultures.

Thousands of people attended the festivities in Armagh, the ecclesiastical capital of Ireland, with the parade beginning at the Palace Demesne and making its way through the city centre.

The Catholic Primate, Cardinal Sean Brady, helped to distribute shamrock before the parade set off. There were also big crowds for the events in Newry.

All the parades featured multicultural elements with people from ethnic groups such as Poles, Filipinos, Chinese, Lithuanians and Bulgarians taking part.

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty is the former Northern editor of The Irish Times