Sunshine and shamrock make 2016 the biggest St Patrick’s Day celebration ever
Published 18/03/2016 | 02:30
Two million people celebrated St Patrick's Day across Ireland as glorious sunshine combined with extended school holidays and Easter Rising centenary events for the biggest turnout ever.
Record attendances at parades in cities, county towns and villages gave the country a massive economic boost as up to 140,000 foreign visitors joined in the annual festivities.
Fáilte Ireland estimated that tourism numbers were up at least 25pc on last year. The strength of the US dollar has also delivered a surge in the numbers of American holidaymakers.
Dublin, Cork and Limerick attracted record attendances and it was the same story across the country.
In the capital, the cold but dry weather delivered an audience estimated at 600,000 - bigger than even the organisers' most ambitious predictions.
The Dublin parade boasted its biggest-ever arts participation - and organisers admitted the availability of Luas services was a huge relief after strike action was averted.
Cork also savoured record crowds with the parade boasting the theme 'Legacy'.
The Easter Rising leaders may have dominated Irish history but they towered over the Cork St Patrick's Day parade yesterday.
Giant mannequins of the 1916 rebels including Pádraig Pearse and James Connolly were the undisputed hits of the parade which, thanks to dry weather and the Easter Rising centenary, attracted more than 80,000 people to Cork city centre.
The parade organisers opted not to have a Grand Marshall but rather to have the role fulfilled by actors representing the seven signatories of the Proclamation of Independence who were later executed by British forces.
The three-metre tall artworks were designed by Dowtcha Puppets and made by Lindsey Foley.
The Cork parade boasted a total of five major artworks and served as the linchpin of a four day-long series of events which included street music, art exhibitions, a special festival market and a traditional music trail.
Blarney hosted one of 30 parades in the county, and numbers there were boosted by marching bands from Texas and New Mexico.
Limerick city also set a new record attendance with more than 80,000 spectators for an action-packed programme co-ordinated by Grooveyard and with Jedward as special guests.
Actor Myles Breen was the Grand Marshall for a parade which featured 100 different community groups, bands and sports clubs.
The theme of the Limerick parade was 'Commemorate' with a heavy emphasis on the legacy of 1916.
The parade benefits from its proximity to the 46th Limerick International Band Championship which takes place on Sunday.
More than 1,200 musicians from all over the world, including the 280-member University of Missouri band, are in the city for the weekend.
Askeaton celebrated a particularly high-profile parade with the 70-piece Limerick City Rhythm Band leading the way.
The parade also featured art works from Norwegian duo 'aiPotu', Anders Kjellesvik and Andreas Siqueland.
In Waterford, the city celebrated the fact that the national holiday was secured by a local man.
Franciscan Luke Wadding came up with the notion in 17th Century Waterford that St Patrick deserved to be honoured with a Church holiday.
Michael O'Connor, who is 103, was the country's oldest Grand Marshal as he led the parade in Killarney.
In Clare, Patrick 'Paki' Wall (97) was the Grand Marshall for the Ennis parade which attracted a crowd of more than 15,000.
There were fewer people around Dingle as the country's earliest parade got under way at 5.45am.
In Sligo, more than 25,000 people viewed the parade which, given the Easter 1916 centenary, featured a heavy emphasis on local heroes, William Butler Yeats and Countess Markievicz.
A record 15,000 people packed into Letterkenny where the parade began with the Proclamation being read by Army Cmdt Donal McCafferty, OCC of the 28th Battalion at Finner Camp.
There were hundreds of parades yesterday, with many more taking place in towns and villages over the weekend. Anyone not fed up walking can take it to another level in Ardara, Co Donegal, during the four-day St Patrick's Walking festival.