Big crowds flock to day of fun in the sun
GREEN was, of course, the colour of the day but unseasonal blue skies and bright sunshine in many areas meant that the attraction of a St Patrick's Day parade increased significantly yesterday.
The result was huge crowds by early afternoon at most of the events up and down the country, with any suggestion that the parades are becoming outdated in modern Ireland deflected.
And, with a strong multicultural theme apparent in the majority of events here, the future popularity of the tradition looks secure.
In Limerick, the newly-crowned 'You're A Star' winner vied with Munster rugby legend Anthony Foley to be the top attraction as 50,000 lined the streets. Mr Foley was this year's grand marshal but had to share the limelight with Leanne Moore who won the competition late on Sunday night.
Defence Minister Willie O'Dea, who said he had voted for Ms Moore, used his clout to ensure that Limerick had the largest military parade in the country yesterday, with over 200 military personnel participating along with six MOWAG armoured personnel carriers and a spectacular fly past by the Air Corps.
Belfast put on its new inclusive face as Patrick's Day was celebrated by thousands from all backgrounds. Multi-cultural, multi-racial and cross-community -- the annual parade was led by a unionist Lord Mayor and a colourful Chinese dragon.
"This sends out a really positive message that Belfast is moving forward at a tremendous rate," Lord Mayor Jim Rodgers said.
"It used to be in the past that only one community wanted to celebrate, but St Patrick is for everybody and today that basically is what has happened."
Elsewhere in the North, there were equally colourful celebrations with parades in Downpatrick, burial place of our patron saint, and Derry.
The City of the Tribes could hardly go wrong by choosing a tribal theme for the day, with tens of thousands out to watch the various community and ethnic groups perform.
Led by a colour party from Renmore army barracks and the Galway Town Crier, the parade reflected the changing face of the city with several international community organisations, as well as alternative religious groups, taking part. Guest of honour was Tom Feeney (90), who has led St Patrick's Brass Band for more than 48 years.
The international community was to the fore in Sligo also. Two little girls who could be forced out of the country this afternoon were cheered through the streets of their adopted home.
Nigerians Naomi (7) and Jemima (5) Izevbekhai happily took part in the parade, despite their family facing a possible deportation today.
It was an altogether lighter mood in Killarney where the Antarctic continent captured the imagination with Pat Falvey, the leader on the recent Irish expedition to the South Pole, the guest of honour for the day.
Even rival GAA clubs Crokes and Legion both had Antarctic floats, while penguins were among those passing the viewing stand, which was occupied by the likes of former GAA president Sean Kelly, the Sam Maguire Cup, and Kerry football manager Pat O'Shea.
In Tralee, the parade was led by young scientist of the year, Emer Jones (13).
In nearby Cork city, the parade was led by Irish medal winners at the Shanghai Special Olympics with highlights of the day including the Dowtcha Puppets who showcased a specially commissioned carnival-style street theatre version of the city crest featuring the Cork city emblem, which consists of two towers and a ship in the harbour.
Lord Mayor Donal Counihan later hosted an intercultural celebration at Cork City Hall for the 1,700 participants in the parade and other invited guests.