From New York to Pisa, the world turns green
Landmarks get the spirit of the Irish
FROM the leaning tower of Pisa to Niagara Falls, the world turned green yesterday to celebrate St Patrick's Day and as nearly 500,000 packed the streets of Dublin for the big parade, even Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, celebrated Ireland's national holiday.
The eyes of the world turned towards Ireland as more than 50 communities up and down the country hosted parades in a festival that exuded more optimism than recent years.
And there was even a little sunshine breaking through the ominous clouds that threatened to put a dampener on the Dublin shindig. The rain stayed away long enough to allow a short, sharp parade of wonderful vibrancy to make its way through the streets of the capital.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny will make the traditional presentation of a bowl of shamrock to US President Barack Obama on Tuesday as St Patrick's Day fell on Saturday -- but the focus is on showing the world Ireland is open for business.
Twelve ministers and five junior ministers have travelled abroad trying to keep costs to a minimum. Last year, nine went -- but the Taoiseach said now is the time to pursue business opportunities.
In his St Patrick's Day message, Cardinal Sean Brady offered prayers for the estimated 50,000 citizens who emigrated in the past year.
In Cork, giant leprechauns and an army of GAA heroes dominated as over 150,000 people flocked to town for the three-day festival. The festival organisers hailed their event as the biggest ever staged.
In the Lebanon, Minister of State Paul Kehoe attended festivities for Irish members of the UN Interim Peacekeeping Force. "Your presence here is a great source of pride to Ireland," he told the troops. "It is the difference between life and death for so many hundreds and thousands of people living here."
An estimated 40,000 people lined the streets of Limerick city centre. The theme of the parade was 'The World in Union', as the city celebrated its community base, its diversity and ethnicity.
The Grand Marshall of the Dublin event was John Giles. It was a proud moment for the footballing legend as he led the parade around the city, just a stone's throw from where he honed his skills as a youngster in Ormond Square in the north inner city.
The inspiration this year was Dublin's status as 'The City of Science'. More than 3,000 participants brought an eclectic mix of creative design, madcap floats and street theatre and traditional marching bands including the splendid 213-strong Mizzou marching band from Missouri.
In the UK, the Duchess of Cambridge looked stunning as she presented the Irish Guards with shamrock. She wore a striking green dress coat by Emilia Wickstead with a chocolate brown Lock & Co hat, as well as an Irish Guards brooch that belonged to the Queen Mother as she attended a parade in Aldershot.
She even pinned shamrock to the collar of regimental mascot Conmael, an Irish Wolfhound.
In an address on the theme of active citizenship, President Michael D Higgins said Ireland needed to rebuild a sense of trust and community for a new economy predicated on a shared common good, "rather than speculative aspirations for individual aggrandisement".
Across five continents, many landmarks turned green, including the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Niagara Falls, New York's Chrysler Building and the London Eye.
"We'll bring a smile to the faces of people and convey the message that Ireland offers the warmest of welcomes," Tourism Ireland chief executive Niall Gibbons said.
A surprise attraction at the Moscow parade on the old Arbat, the kilometre-long pedestrian street in the historical centre of the city, was the band of the FSB -- the Russian Federal Security Service and successor to the KGB. There's a little bit of Irish everywhere.