St Patrick's celebrations begin


No matter where you are in Ireland this weekend, St Patrick’s Day celebrations won’t be far away.

Dublin airport will be rolling out the green carpet for more than 240,000 passengers over the course of the four-day festival. More than 1,600 flights will arrive and depart over the course of the long weekend. Passengers are advised to arrive 90 minutes before departure and to check from which terminal their flight will depart before leaving home.

Terminals 1 and 2 will be decked out with bunting and balloons celebration. Overseas travellers can expect to be greeted by jugglers, stilt walkers and traditional Irish bands upon arrival.

In the City Centre, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade will set off from Parnell Square at 12:00 pm Saturday afternoon, down O’Connell Street and over the Liffey to Westmoreland. The parade will then turn down Dame Street and finish just beyond St Patrick’s Cathedral. The parade will explore the theme of “How? What? Why?” to commemorate Dublin’s designation as a 2012 City of Science.

For the first time, a group of Polish children and teenagers will be participating in the Dublin parade, as part of the Brighter Futures project. As part of the project, 11 students along with other youth groups from the city will march together to visually represent the science theme of ‘gravity.’

Those lucky enough to be named Patrick, or any variation thereof, might want to venture over to the Guinness Storehouse. People called Patrick will be treated as VIPs, or Very Important Patricks, receiving free admission to the Guinness Storehouse. There will be will live music, food tasting, a Guinness World Record attempt, a ceili mor and of course, plenty of Guinness at the Storehouse! Patricks will need to bring ID.

At Dublin Zoo, even the animals will be getting in on the festive fun – they’ll be fed tricolour treats at special feeding times, orange and green fruit and veg. There will also be St Patrick's-themed zookeeper talks, face painting and other kid-friendly activities.

At night, Dublin City buildings will be turning their lights green for the duration of the festival. Andrew Montague, Lord Mayor of Dublin, launched the “Greening the City” event this evening by switching on the lights of the GPO. College Green, Christ Church Cathedral and Trinity College will be among the other buildings being lit up this weekend.

Tomorrow will also see the ever-popular fun-fairs in full swing all day in Dublin in Merrion Square, Wolfe Tone Park and the Custom House Quay.

Those looking for something to do other than the parade might want to try the Family Architecture Tour at noon, €10 for adults and €5 for children. Once the main parade has cleared, walking tours set off from the Tours and Tickets Office, opposite Trinity College, offering to take visitors in the Footsteps of St. Patrick for €14 per person.

Street performances and a trad stage in Temple Bar’s Meeting House Square are sure to keep things hopping throughout the day. Visitors sticking around into the evening can continue the craic at Ceili House Live at the National Concert Hall, or Father Ted Weekend at the Laughter Lounge.

Meanwhile, Belfast’s carnival parade will begin at 12 pm from City Hall and wind its way down to the Custom House Square. Music abounds, with the Red Hot Chilli Pipers and X-Factor finalist Sophie Habibis headlining the music stage. Contemporary and folk musicians will join them, as well as the Royal Tara School of Irish Dance.

In Cork, the parade starts from Parnell Place on 1pm, and finishes at Merchant’s Quay at 2.30 pm. All day long the Living Social Music Stage at the Grand Parade and Boardwalk South Mall will feature tunes from featuring Comhaltas, Meascáin and Death by Chocolate. A trad trail and Barry’s Tea Market will entertain after the parade.

Galway’s parade will set off at 11:30 am from Lower Dominick 11.30 am and end by the Galway County Council Buildings. The trad trail will be entertaining all weekend in the Latin Quarter, and the International Print Exhibition will be open throughout the festival.

Limerick's parade on Saturday will begin at O’Connell Ave. at 12 pm and end at Island Road at 12 pm. Buskers, a trad trail and a ceili mor will keep the fun rolling, and children can enjoy storytelling and arts and crafts at the Hunt Museum.