Visitors from over 40 countries to walk in St Patrick’s Day People’s Parade

More than €50 million to be spent in the capital over next five days

Erin (8) and Eve (7) Kirby from Dún Laoghaire dancing in Dublin’s St Stephen’s Green to highlight the St Patrick’s Festival céilí on Friday 15th March, featuring Dearbhla Lennon of Riverdance and a host of other professional dancers. Photograph: Alan Betson

Erin (8) and Eve (7) Kirby from Dún Laoghaire dancing in Dublin’s St Stephen’s Green to highlight the St Patrick’s Festival céilí on Friday 15th March, featuring Dearbhla Lennon of Riverdance and a host of other professional dancers. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Setting off 75 minutes before the real thing, the People’s Parade was billed by organisers of the Gathering and the St Patrick’s Festival as a chance for Irish people to “invite anyone who feels a connection to Ireland to participate in the country’s most celebrated and iconic national event”.

With online registration for the 8,000 places closing yesterday, organisers were tight-lipped about uptake. While a spokeswoman said there were “a few hundred places left,” she was unable to indicate if the other places had been filled. Overseas applicants aged over 15 can register in person by bringing photo ID to City Hall on Friday and Saturday.

Meanwhile 225,000 passengers are expected to pass through Dublin Airport over the weekend, up 6 per cent from last year. Monday is likely to be the busiest day, with more than 82,000 passengers, Dublin Airport Authority says.

The airport’s terminals were bathed in green light last night, and will remain so until Tuesday. Choirs and traditional musicians will entertain passengers over the weekend and terminals have been decked out with 11,000 balloons.

Dublin Chamber of Commerce estimates that more than 120,000 overseas visitors will spend over €50 million in the capital during the next five days. With CSO figures showing an increase of 52,900 trips to Ireland between November 2012 and January compared to the same time last year, Chamber chief executive Gina Quin called for the 9 per cent tourism VAT rate to be extended.

“One-third of all hotel bed nights are booked a year in advance. Providing a level of certainty on the VAT rate will allow the tourism industry to market this competitive advantage, selling tourism products into 2014,” she said.

The Incoming Tour Operators Association (ITOA) will tomorrow release results showing a 19 per cent, or €34 million, increase in turnover in 2012 compared to 2011. It estimates that tourists handled by its 30 inbound tour operators spent €346 million here last year.

Galway parade
In the west, the last Galway team to win the All-Ireland hurling title will tog out to lead the city’s parade. Conor Hayes who captained the 1988 side that vanquished Tipperary to win the title 25 years ago will lead the 2.5km route.

In Dublin, the Guinness Storehouse is offering all Patricks and Patricias free entry on March 17th. Those called Paddy, Patsy, Trish or other variants of the name will be received on the green carpet, and be given a complimentary pint or a lesson in pouring one.

In a St Patrick’s Day message, President Michael D Higgins said it was a day for the wider Irish family around the world to “reflect on our shared past and celebrate a unique culture and heritage”.

Mr Higgins said that, like St Patrick, Irish people were, “in troubling and testing times”, being called to show “resilience, fortitude and the wisdom to move beyond destructive cynicism and recrimination”. Remembering those “separated from their homeland by involuntary emigration”, he wished them a “happy and fulfilled time” in their new countries and hoped when economic circumstances allowed, they would return.