St Patrick's Day around the country: Mermaids, Vikings – and lots of leprechauns
THERE was every shade of green in cities and towns across the country, as tens of thousands of people came out on the streets to enjoy their local St Patrick's Day parades.
The biggest turnout was in Dublin, where an estimated 500,000 people flocked to the city for the festivities, but thousands more lined out all over the country to celebrate our patron saint's day.
Giant puppets, a large water-spraying whale and colourful mermaids were among the star attractions in Cork's parade, which drew crowds of more than 50,000.
Grand Marshal Lord Mayor of San Francisco Edwin Lee led some 60 sporting and community organisations through the streets, in the city's biggest St Patrick's parade.
Among the highlights was a float by Dowtcha Puppets, which featured a 10-metre-long boat surrounded by angler puppets, vintage costumed bathers and seagulls, while a large Venus float with mermaids by Cork Community Art Link also impressed the crowds.
The Irish Prison Service Pipe Band and the Ballyphehane and District Pipe Band were among the many marching bands that entertained the spectators.
There was a distinctive international feel to the parade, with a large number of ethnic groups taking part, including the Sudanese Association of Cork, the Cork Lithuanian School and the Polish School in Cork.
Mr Lee, who was accompanied to Cork by a 20-strong trade delegation from San Francisco, said he was honoured to be in Cork celebrating St Patrick's Day.
Gardai estimated that more than 50,000 people lined the route for Limerick's parade, which stretched from O'Connell Avenue to Island Road.
A giant St Patrick led more than 4,000 colourful participants in one of the largest regional events that were held yesterday.
Some 285 locals made their own costumes and dressed as Ireland's patron saint in an attempt to break the world record.
Fleadh Cheoil na Mumhan won best float, while the Filipino Community took the honours for most entertaining group, with Macnas taking the most eco-friendly award and Limerick City Rhythm winning best musical performance.
Galway hosted its 110th St Patrick's Day parade with participants of all ages showcasing the city's history and traditions.
Parade organisers in the City of the Tribes invited those bearing the names of the 14 merchant families who dominated the commercial, political and social life of Galway from the 13th to the 19th centuries to march.
Also making a special trip West for the big parade were 40 members of the Ancient and Honourable Artillery Company of Massachussetts, the oldest chartered military organisation in north America.
Guests of honour at the parade were the Galway hurling heroes who won the county's back-to-back All-Ireland titles in 1987 and 1988.
Big Jim Larkin was one of the hits of the parade – after being rejected by the city that prides itself on his legacy.
A float with an actor depicting the country's most famous trade union leader was deemed inappropriate for the Dublin parade, but found immediate favour with the organisers of the Galway parade.
Dancers, martial arts exponents, sea creatures and, naturally, a few Vikings were all in the mix as Waterford celebrated the national day with a few nods to its past and its heritage.
Those taking part began at The Glen before making their way down the quays, turning on to the Mall where they passed in front of a viewing stand packed with local dignitaries and special guests, and finishing on Parnell Street.
Marching bands, including the renowned local Barrack Street Band, kept the music going while dance troupes, sport clubs and others participated in the festivities.
Waterford's diverse population was also highlighted, as among those parading were the all-dancing, all-colourful Pan-African Organisation of Waterford.
Meanwhile, strong representation from the Irish Coast Guard, including crafts of various shapes and sizes, emphasised the area's rich maritime tradition and strength of volunteer spirit.
The town attracted its biggest crowds in years on to the streets to watch the St Patrick's Day parade which was led by grand marshal, singer Mary Duff.
This year's event attracted many new and regular participants like the Lourdes brass band.
The festivities in Longford this year were watched by a crowd of more than 5,000 people. This year's parade was led by the county's pipe band and more than 50 floats took part.
The premier county went on parade in style with large turn-outs in Littleton, Nenagh, Templemore, Roscrea, Cashel, Ballyporeen and Cahir. The Thurles parade will be held today to ensure plenty of bands will be available to take part.
The country's earliest St Patrick's Day parade was kicking off while most still slumbered.
The sun had not yet risen on the national holiday when the dawn parade in Dingle, Co Kerry was already under way.
It's a tradition that dates back to the Land War of the 1870s, when there was a curfew on any public gatherings between dusk and dawn. So to get around this, the parade started at one minute to six in the morning and was already over before the sun had risen.
Revellers have maintained the tradition ever since and about 150 diehard supporters lined the streets as the Dingle Fife and Drum band made its way around the town at 5.59am.
"It always has to be before six, that's the tradition," said local publican and member of the band, Fergus O'Flaherty.
"It's a great local tradition that goes back to the time of Cogadh na Talun (the Land War) and is still going."
The traditional starting point is outside St Elizabeth's Hospital, formerly the workhouse. From there it winds its way around the town before heading to St Mary's Church on Green Street for the traditional dawn Mass.
Colm Kennedy from Ashmount has been playing music with the fife and drum band for the past 50 years and has been attending the dawn parade for as long as he can remember.
He was joined yesterday by 41 fellow band members.
Visitors are often taken aback by the spectacle, including Andrew Sheridan, who was visiting from Dublin for the weekend for the Dingle International Film Festival. His B&B was on the parade route.
"Much to my confusion I thought this was a strange time for a rehearsal," Mr Sheridan said on his rude awakening at 6am.
This was the earliest of a total of 17 parades in Co Kerry alone yesterday.