For someone who got only two hours’ sleep after a long night of drinking and carousing, St Patrick was remarkably punctual for the Munich parade in his honour.
A week early, in fact, but no matter: the 23rd St Patrick’s Day Parade in Munich, the largest in continental Europe, is now a popular Bayrisch-Irish love-in.
An estimated 20,000 turned out on a mild spring Sunday morning: Irish and honorary Irish, leaping dancers, jolly leprechauns, over-stimulated wolfhounds and iron-lunged pipers.
In full bishop’s gear, travelling under the cover name Wolfgang Schramm, St Patrick first polished off two Bavarian Weisswurst and swapped stout for Weissbeer first. For strength, you understand.
Brexit has made Ireland more European in its outlook. We realise that we have to forge new partnerships, and Germany is the centre of gravity of Europe
“We’ve been celebrating Ireland, its music and culture here since the 1970s,” said Schramm (68), casually blessing a young girl as she stared at his get-up. “The Irish and Bavarians have so much in common, above all a basic vibe, and our motto here at the parade is always: peace.”
Heading this year’s parade was grand marshal Ann Dempsey, a local Irish business woman, and princess Chiara Caravello, daughter of a Derry mother and Italian father and resplendent in a lacy dress.
“It wasn’t easy to find a green dress but it’s worth it,” said Ms Caravello. “What’s special about this day in Munich is that it’s not just the Irish celebrating amongst themselves – everyone parties along.”
Guest of honour at the first St Patrick’s parade of the 2018 season: Minister for Education and Skills Richard Bruton. No stranger to Germany, Mr Bruton made Munich his first stop in a trip that takes him to Hamburg and Berlin.
In meetings with the Irish community and ministers along the way, his priority: to build stronger education and research contacts as Ireland looks beyond the “cosy shelter” of Britain.
“As we internationalise and see the Brexit door closing on one market, we clearly have to see languages as being the oil of trade,” he said.
“Brexit has made Ireland more European in its outlook. We realise that we have to forge new partnerships, and Germany is the centre of gravity of Europe.”
Mr Bruton has timed his visit well and will be in the Bundestag on Wednesday for the long-delayed swearing-in of chancellor Angela Merkel and her fourth-term government.
Irish Ambassador in Berlin Michael Collins, currently overseeing a strategic review of Irish-German relations, said it was crucial for Ireland to “protect and preserve” its connections to Germany while finding new opportunities and partnerships here.
Local Munich lovers of Ireland have welcomed the new Irish engagement in Germany, and see great potential – particularly here in prosperous Bavaria, home to the country’s leading universities and research facilities.
“The Irish who come here are too well-behaved,” said Erich Legeune, a local Munich businessman and Ireland’s honorary consul here. “They are great communicators and networkers and have amazing digital and new media potential to pitch and need to get out here with more roadshows.”