Miriam Lord: A parade in Dublin you could only dream about
As leader of the Green Party, Eamon Ryan was official ruler of Ireland for St Patrick’s Day
Dublin’s O’Connell Street on St Patrick’s Day. Photograph: Tom Honan
Is it just me or is it very hot in here? Might just take a little lie down.
Perhaps it was unwise to discontinue self-isolating after visiting the White House last week. What with President Trump being in contact with more carriers than the back wheel of a push-bike. And the rest of us packed like sardines around the twin sofas in the Oval Office.
“Will you take a wee drop of sanitiser in your hand?”
No chance of hearing that in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Glad to be home.
Oh Jesus, the heat. Might take that little lie down now...
Still, it was worth going out to cover this year’s St Patrick’s Day Parade. Bashed out a colour piece for the paper and all. Remotely, of course.
Conditions may have been blustery but the weather held up for the photos and that’s the main thing. There is nothing worse than when it rains on our national holiday.
O’Connell Street was en fete, with drunken youths pouring merrily from buses well before the midday start. There was a festive atmosphere around town, the partying locals joined by over 200,000 half-cut overseas visitors dressed in leprechaun suits and shamrock festooned onsies.
As the parade assembled near Parnell Square, the VIP stand opposite the GPO began to fill up with minor politicians and their offsprings’ offspring.
Minister for the Arts Josepha Madigan arrived bang on time – an hour after a press release was issued alerting the media to her expected presence and many fine achievements in office. She was wearing an elegant woollen coat in a loud shade of Mary-Lou green.
Eamon Ryan took his place on the viewing platform. As leader of the Green Party he is official ruler of Ireland for the day. He sported a necklace of wolverine teeth donated to the city in 2009 by actor Hugh Jackman.
Unfortunately, Eamon refused to talk to any other leaders because they won’t form a national government with him. He self-isolated opposite Clery’s clock with his large entourage and their policy papers
Never mind. The crowd was in high spirits. They cheered and wept for joy when the lord mayor’s gilded coach arrived carrying the capital city’s first citizen Jim Gavin.
Tom who? Tom Brabazon, Fianna Fáil? Oh right. He was the lad wearing the gold chain.
Jim Gavin, the legend who led Dublin’s footballers to a record five-in-a-row All-Irelands was interviewed on the street by RTÉ’s Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh. You could see the Nationwide presenter was glad to be away from the poisonous atmosphere in the commentary box where unruly scenes unfolded earlier between all the sports commentators looking for a gig after their matches and race meetings were cancelled.
They should have turned off the microphones. Some of the kiddies started crying when a torrent of ‘effin ’n blindin’ between parade regular Des Cahill and horse pundit Ted Walsh burst from the public address system.
And then George Hamilton and Tony O’Donoghue started sobbing, and that set more of them off.
Thankfully the arrival of Uachtarán na hÉireann and his wife enlivened proceedings even more. Michael D and Sabina were interviewed by Bláthnaid when Gavin finally stopped talking.
The President said mystical things in Irish and English, and the Americans swooned and wished they could like him along with Donald Trump.
You could hear the brass bands beckoning from the Garden of Remembrance. The wonderful Dublin Fire Pipe Brigade band was already on the scene, this year with two very special mascots – Bród and Síoda, Ireland’s First Dogs. For some this was the highlight of the parade.
At the barrier a mammy was telling her small daughter all about them.
“But Ma, I thought them dogs was Áras an Uachtaráin dogs. Where’s Bernie’s Mountain?”
“I don’t know, love. But that’s what they are: Bernie’s Mountain Dogs. She’s probably from Kerry.”
The theme of this year’s festival parade was “Spring Fever”.
It was a big day for the grand marshall, who eschewed the usual mode of conveyance – a flash car. He may not be a minister when the next government is formed, so it was good practice.
Instead Simon Harris arrived at the reviewing stand on a hospital trolley, pushed by exhausted nurses and doctors.
He then walked the 2.5km route wearing a green velvet Uncle Sam-style tailcoat, knee breeches, brogues and a green top hat with a Tricolour band.
Instead of a silver-topped cane Uncle Si carried a giant cotton swab, cutting quite the dash.
The broad silk sash across his chest was embroidered in gold with the words “Your Country Needs You!”
An appreciative local crowd applauded because even though he is the Minister for Health in a Government just given the bum’s rush in a general election, he is playing a blinder as front-of-house manager in this current crisis.
It took nearly two hours for the magnificent floats to pass the halfway point in a riot of colour and clamour. Weird and wonderful creations filled the streets, though everyone missed the great Paddy Drac, who died last year.
The FAI float was a shambles, covered in cheap green and white crepe paper and mouldy scraps of decent-skin blazers. Eamon Dunphy sat at the back, throwing pens into the crowd. For years the FAI float featured a giant inflatable “Delaney Baby” but it burst. It cost a fortune but delivered nothing.
It was followed by the “DemaboveinDublin” float sponsored by Michael Healy-Rae’s Black Cap Company Ltd (trading as his Mace Shop in Kilgarvan). It featured members of the Rural Independents Group dancing on a giant inflatable Shane Ross.
There was confusion over the meaning of one pageant called “Stifle Sighs” with its giant inflatable gammon, dancing horses’ heads, theatrically expiring grannies and tipsy children dressed as the Cotswolds. The theatre company, from Cheltenham, explained the title is an anagram of “Selfish Gits”.
Makes perfect sense now. They won a prize.
The Brexit float had to be seen to be believed. Apparently it had a giant inflatable Baby Boris. But nobody saw it.
Among all the talented groups from home and abroad, the Formation Talk Dancers from Kildare Street really caught the eye. They pirouetted around giant inflatable “self-oscillating taoisigh”, with full permission from the HSE.
The crowd was enchanted. One man became emotional when a giant inflatable toilet roll surrounded by dancing Prof McConkeys sashayed past his spot outside Supermacs.
He told us his name. “Joe. Joe Deviris. ” He was loving the parade. “As I told your researcher, in regards of Prof McConkey….”
A colleague from the Examiner smirked and waved his notebook at us.
The McDonald Majorettes kept trying to overtake the groups in front of them, twirling their Big Mandate Batons. “We should be up the front,” said a chap dressed as a house, muscling past. He said his name was Eoin.
“Too right,” said a chap dressed as a fiscal space, pushing on through. He said his name was Pearse.
“If the batons don’t work we’ll be blowing our trumpets outside Government Buildings to get back into the limelight,” said Mary Lou, chief twirler.
A very fancy schmancy float purred past, dripping soothing words, a giant inflated John Concannon held down by ropes smiling above it. He’s the Government’s favourite Sultan of Spin. Back again.
Meanwhile, the Taoiseach said a few words from the reviewing stand before he left, standing at a safe distance from the hacks because he is self-oscillating and it feels good.
“Ireland is open for business,” declared Leo Varadkar, reading from an old St Patrick’s Day script. He hastily changed course. It’s not. We’re closed. He went on television at 9pm to talk to the country about it. Not a state of the nation but a “the state of the nation” address. He’s doing a good job handling this crisis.
It was definitely one of the best St Patrick’s Day parades we’ve seen.
Who could forget the giant inflatable candidates for the Seanad, high on their pomp?
Or those happy US politicians crowded onto the annual Seamus Heaney Quote Float, where hope and history incessantly rhymes and waits to catch the heart off guard and blow it open….”
That was a lovely sleep, doctor.
Is it me or is it still very hot in here?