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Tuesday 28 January 2020

Thousands take to the nation's streets for a day of revelry

Members of An Garda Síochána during the St Patricks Day Parade in New York (PA)
Members of An Garda Síochána during the St Patricks Day Parade in New York (PA)

Ralph Riegel and Conor Kane

Saint Patrick's Day revellers marched in dry, overcast conditions as an estimated two million people took to the streets of Irish cities, towns and villages to honour the national saint.

Once again, Kerry got the party going with two parades staged before most people in the country had even gotten out of bed to put on their celebratory shamrock.

The first was staged at Ballydavid where the parade took place at 12.01am. It mirrored dozens of parades around Ireland where special tributes were paid to the Irish Coast Guard and the four-strong crew of the downed Rescue 116 helicopter.

Many marchers wore black arm-bands to show their solidarity with the friends and family of Rescue 116 crew.

The second parade was in Dingle, where the Dingle Pipe and Drum Band marched down the main street at the unholy hour of 5.45am.

Thankfully, it was a more sedate celebration across the rest of Munster.

Maud Hickey enjoys a patriotic ice cream in the rain at the Killarney parade Picture: Valerie O’Sullivan
Maud Hickey enjoys a patriotic ice cream in the rain at the Killarney parade Picture: Valerie O’Sullivan

More than 40,000 people thronged Cork streets for a combined parade and St Patrick's Day festival.

The parade grand marshal was celebrity TV chef Rachel Allen and she helped cook up a party mood.

The Cork festival put particular emphasis on food stalls and Cork's culinary traditions.

Cork also paid tribute to one of its most successful exports - in this case a person rather than a famous food dish like spiced beef or black pudding.

US motor industry giant Henry Ford was the scion of a west Cork migrant and, to mark the centenary of his opening a major car plant at Marina off Cork harbour, there was a special tribute by a fleet of vintage Ford cars.

Across Cork county, more than two dozen parades were staged - the largest in Mallow, Fermoy, Kinsale, Bandon, Clonakilty, Macroom, Youghal, Midleton, Blarney and Skibbereen.

Cork Community Art Link members perform at the Cork Parade Photo: Darragh Kane
Cork Community Art Link members perform at the Cork Parade Photo: Darragh Kane

The Mallow parade was attended by Rosemary O'Neill, the daughter of Tip O'Neill, 47th Speaker of the US House of Representatives.

In Ballincollig, organisers appealed for support from GAA clubs across Munster as they attempted to stage the loudest 'clash of the ash' in Irish history through youngsters striking hurleys in unison.

In Limerick, the parade attracted more than 50,000 fans with the theme this year being 'Our Stories'.

Parade grand marshal was Luke Culhane (14), the Limerick Person of the Year, and 4,000 marchers defied occasionally heavy showers to complete the route.

Members of the UCC Confucius Institute in Cork’s parade
Members of the UCC Confucius Institute in Cork’s parade

The parade once again benefited from its proximity to the 47th Limerick International Band Championship, which takes place tomorrow.

Waterford again 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.

However, the Waterford parade proved poignant as a minute of silence was observed for the crew of Rescue 116.

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Captain Dara Fitzpatrick, who was killed in the tragedy, had been based for many years for the Irish Coast Guard at Waterford Airport.

More than 30,000 people attended the Galway parade where the emphasis was on the city securing the prized 2020 European Capital of Culture title.

Killarney attracted an estimated 10,000 people, with many US holidaymakers based in Kerry for the week.

The tiny Monaghan village of Oram claimed the record for the shortest - and fastest - St Patrick's Day parade.

Marchers took just four-and-a-half minutes to walk the parade route.

Country star Big Tom McBride was guest of honour and played a short concert after the parade.

In Sligo, more than 25,000 people viewed the parade which again featured a heavy emphasis on local heroes, William Butler Yeats and Countess Markievicz.

Irish Independent

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