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‘It’s great to be back’ – Parade-goers bask in glorious sunshine as Grand Marshal Kellie Harrington reveals she forgot her gold medal this morning

Parades across Ireland boasted their biggest crowds in years with an estimated 1.5m people in attendance

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Grand Marshals Paralympic gold medal swimmer Ellen Keane (left) and Olympic gold medal boxer Kellie Harrington take part in the St Patrick's Day Parade in Dublin. Brian Lawless PA

Grand Marshals Paralympic gold medal swimmer Ellen Keane (left) and Olympic gold medal boxer Kellie Harrington take part in the St Patrick's Day Parade in Dublin. Brian Lawless PA

Olympic gold medal boxer Kellie Harrington take part in the St Patrick's Day Parade in Dublin. Brian Lawless PA

Olympic gold medal boxer Kellie Harrington take part in the St Patrick's Day Parade in Dublin. Brian Lawless PA

Grand Marshals Paralympic gold medal swimmer Ellen Keane (left) and Olympic gold medal boxer Kellie Harrington take part in the St Patrick's Day Parade in Dublin. Brian Lawless PA

Grand Marshals Paralympic gold medal swimmer Ellen Keane (left) and Olympic gold medal boxer Kellie Harrington take part in the St Patrick's Day Parade in Dublin. Brian Lawless PA

Marion Cronin pictured at the St Patrick's Day parade in Kilkenny. Picture: Dylan Vaughan.

Marion Cronin pictured at the St Patrick's Day parade in Kilkenny. Picture: Dylan Vaughan.

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Grand Marshals Paralympic gold medal swimmer Ellen Keane (left) and Olympic gold medal boxer Kellie Harrington take part in the St Patrick's Day Parade in Dublin. Brian Lawless PA

There was no time for breakfast this morning as Kellie Harrington got ready to take part in the St Patrick’s Day Parade.

I was quite pushed for time,” she said. She even forgot her gold medal and had to send someone to go back home for her and get it.

The Olympic gold winning boxer and Paralympic swimmer Ellen Keane are both being honoured as Grand Marshalls of the parade in Dublin, joining Hollywood actor John C Reilly the international guest of honour.

Ellen laughed that she had asked Kellie what they would be wearing and Kellie said “our kit - you can’t get any greener than that,” while John C Reilly was looking very dapper in a sage green suit and matching flat cap from Louis Copeland.

“I hope I don’t get a box too badly by the end of the day,” he quipped of Kellie, as the pair later mock-sparred for the cameras.

He was looking forward to meeting President Michael D Higgins. “He’s a pretty special guy,” he said. Everyone keeps asking him if he has seen his dogs. “Yeah the dogs are very nice. But he’s also the President.”

Kellie said she hadn’t woken up with the same feeling as a big boxing match.

“When I wake then I’m thinking what am I doing?” she joked.

“I actually can’t wait – you know – like the memories I have from the parade. To be there as that person leading the parade - it’s just amazing,” she said.

For Ellen, taking part in the parade means missing rehearsals for Dancing With the Stars – but she plans on making up for it later.

“My goal was to make the finals and I’m so close,” she said. “I just want to go the distance as well.”

On a sunny day in the capital, crowds turned out in great spirits to line the parade route, with many tourists delighted to be back travelling again.

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Amongst them was Hendrik Konig, over from Vienna with his mother Alexandra and stepfather, Peter. They had planned on coming in 2021 but were disappointed to have to cancel.

“It’s great to be back,” he said.

Nationwide, frontline healthcare heroes and Ukraine's fight for freedom were the dominant themes as St Patrick's Day parades across Ireland boasted their biggest crowds in years with an estimated 1.5 million people in attendance.

Bumper crowds were attributed to the glorious weather, the double bank holiday and the fact Ireland hadn't been able to march to honour its patron saint since 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic erupted.

AMBITIOUS

Newbridge in Kildare was thronged for an hour ahead of what proved to be their biggest ever parade, showing huge pent-up demand after the Covid ban.

At the parade end, local entertainer, Johnny Peters, engaged the audience with tunes and fun.

The wide diversity of activities in the town were reflected in the range of participants who produced a record number of 45 floats.

Marchers included local Sarsfields and Moorefields GAA clubs; the Nio Taekwon-Do club; the Kildare Ploughing Association, the Kildare Filipino Community, the Leah Moran Stage School; the Stage Academy of Newbridge; and members of the Defence Forces and the Organisation of National Ex-Service Personnel (ONE).

Long-time organising committee member, Carl Murphy, insisted this big Newbridge parade comeback was only the start of things to come. “We have much bigger and more ambitious plans for next year to follow through on this success,” he said.

ENTERTAINMENT

In Cork, the city is hosting a four day St Patrick's Festival until Sunday with the Blood Bike South organisation the honorary parade grand marshals this year.

Over 50,000 people revelled in glorious sunshine in Cork as Ukrainian nationals were special guests of honour at the event.

Fáilte Ireland festivals director, Ciara Sugrue, said it was a dream come true to see St Patrick's Day parades and festivals return nationwide.

“It is fantastic to see St. Patrick’s celebrations return - festivals and events play a critical role in delivering brilliant visitor experiences and increasing footfall for local businesses, supporting jobs and revenue generation," she said.

"We want to position Ireland as ‘the’ place to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and with an amazing line-up of entertainment.”

Cork's parade featured Massachusetts State Police, members of the Philadelphia Irish Trad Tours led by traditional folk singer Donie Carroll and Bixby Rugby Club from Oklahoma.

It featured over 2500 local community participants.

Lord Mayor of Cork Councillor Colm Kelleher had invited members of the Ukrainian community to attend to show Ireland's solidarity with their embattled nation.

Polish community support group, Together Razem, invited people from several Eastern European countries to parade with them under a banner of solidarity – Together4Ukraine, to show their support to the Ukrainian people.

In Fermoy, the 37th annual parade honoured inspirational local woman and retired teacher Hazel Baylor who once used her car as a community ambulance in the north Cork area and who, during the polio epidemic of the 1950s, cycled around the area offering home-tuition for youngsters unable to attend school.

Hundreds of people wore blue-and-yellow as a symbol of support for Ukraine - with the Fermoy Concert Band playing the Ukrainian national anthem as one of the parade highlights.

Ireland's first St Patrick's Day parade began at the eye-wateringly early hour of 6am in Dingle.

The Dingle Fife & Drum band proudly led marchers around the west Kerry town centre from 6am before finishing at St Mary's Church.

The tradition dates back decades but for those who fancied a lazy lie-in, a second parade was staged in the afternoon.

PEACE

Major Kerry parades were also staged in Kenmare, Killarney and Tralee.

The Tralee parade proved one of the biggest in years with members of the Little Blue Heroes organisation serving as Grand marshals.

Mayor of Tralee Councillor Johnnie Wall said it was great to see such a large crowd after the disappointment of seeing parades cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to Covid-19.

Galway aptly chose the theme 'Peace' for its parade with a large number of Ukrainian citizens proudly taking part.

More than 50 groups took part in the parade which boasted a 30,000 attendance with Fiona Murtagh, Aifric Keogh and Frank Downes serving as Grand marshals.

Galway Mayor Councillor Colette Connolly said it was wonderful to have such strong public support for the St Patrick's Day programme of events.

Waterford honoured the man who helped make St Patrick's Day the worldwide tradition it has become.

Franciscan monk, theologian and historian, Luke Wadding, succeeded, against all the odds, in having St. Patrick's Day recognised as a major Church holiday and, of course, it later became a worldwide day of celebration.

Born in Waterford in 1588 and ordained as a Franciscan priest in 1613 he quickly became one of the most respected and well-known Franciscan theologians at work in mainland  Europe, mostly in Rome where he established an Irish college for clerical students studying for the priesthood.

It is widely held that after he established his reputation in Rome, the Pope himself asked Wadding to lend a learned eye to helping to create a comprehensive calendar of Church saints.

Wadding completed his task dutifully but thanks to his patriotic Irishness, along with all of the well-known saints like Anthony and Francis, Wadding snuck in an extra, slightly lesser-studied Irish saint - Patrick.

March 17 had been observed by the Irish as St. Patrick's Day since the tenth century but only when Wadding gave church sanction to this did it become a huge spectacle of parades and céilithe.

During the 2022 St. Patrick’s Weekend, a guided Luke Wadding historic walking tour of Waterford is available at 12 noon, 2 pm and 4 pm and will be led by the expert guides from Waterford Treasures Museums.

In Wexford, every 'Patrick' and 'Patricia' enjoyed free tours of one of Ireland's top visitor attractions, Hook Lighthouse.

The medieval lighthouse is celebrating all that is uniquely Irish from a green theme at the café and a celebration of Paddy’s, Patrick’s, Pat’s and Patricia’s plus there will be a Snake Hunt at 2 pm and 3 pm on the lighthouse lawns.

Purpose-built as a lighthouse 800 years ago, and still fully operational today, it is the oldest intact operational Lighthouse in the world.

BELONGING 

Limerick once again combined its St Patrick's Day parade and festival with the Limerick International Band Championship which has attracted bands from all over the world.

Fittingly, the theme for the 2022 Limerick parade is 'Belonging and Identity' - with a host of family friendly events from street music to treasure hunts

To celebrate their historic back-to-back All-Ireland senior hurling titles, members of the Limerick senior hurling panel were the parade Grand marshals - and they were joined by a very special guest, the Liam MacCarthy Cup.

Some 250 people marched in the Limerick GAA contingent alone.

Major St Patrick's Day parades also took place across Tipperary. Tipperary Town parade organisers asked people to not only wear the Irish colours but also to consider wearing Ukrainian colours as a sign of solidarity with the country left wrecked by a Russian invasion.

"We want this event to showcase not alone our own culture but our support for the people of Ukraine and we hope that flags will fly in support of their besieged country. Our Tipperary colours are so similar to the colours of Ukraine so this is an opportunity for us all
to demonstrate that support," organiser Joe Hayes explained.

Kilkenny was also hosting a four-day St Patrick's Festival with the parade as the core event.

Local paralympic hero Mary Fitzgerald, who is from Callan and competes for Gowran Athletic Club, was the Grand marshal for the Kikenny parade which boasted one of its biggest entries in years.

In Sligo, the parade adopted a new march route and the theme 'Together' while the east Mayo village of Kilkelly held its second St Patrick's Day after the inaugural event in 2019.

Drogheda staged its biggest St Patrick's Day event in years along a new route by West Street with Isobel San Roma as Grand marshal.


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