St Patrick’s Day parades: round-up from around the country

Thousands brave cold to celebrate national day around Ireland


Women who have represented Cork politically at both local and national level served as a collective group of Grand Marshals at the St Patrick’s Day parade in the city as organisers marked one hundred years since the vote was granted to Irish females.

MEP Deirdre Clune, former Minister of State Kathleen Lynch and former Lord Mayors Catherine Clancy and Mary Shields held placards bearing the images of women who had gone before them such as Sinn Féin leader Mary MacSwiney,and former councillor and Lord Mayor Chrissie Aherne.

Ms Aherne died in the 1990s so she was represented at the parade by her daughter, Irene Sarl, who said her mother was a "great role model."

Former Deputy Lord Mayor of Cork, Lorraine Kingston, dressed as a suffragette for the parade and said it was wonderful to experience such camaraderie with her peers whilst expressing thanks for their predecessors.


“I would like to think I would I have done what the suffragettes did but who knows? It was also beautiful to remember people like Chrissie Aherne who was the Lord Mayor when I was in school. There is an added pressure (to being a female politician) and I think we all understand that.

Today brought back my happy memories of my seven years in council and it was just great fun.”

Meanwhile, performance art group Spraoi celebrated the Women's Suffrage Movement with two large floats. One float consisted of a large puppet dressed to symbolise a historical warrior Queen of ancient Ireland. The second float was of a puppet of a character on horseback bearing a sculpted flag based on a pendant worn by suffragette supporters over one hundred years ago.

Participants in the Cork city parade included Dowtcha Puppets, the CIT Samba Band, representatives of the Congolese community, the CIT and UCC Vietnamese Society, the Middle Parish and Coal Quay Historical Society who were dressed in traditional "Shawlie" garb, Blackrock Rowing Club, the Cork Lithuanian Community, the Jersey City Police Emerald Society and St Vincent Hurling and Football Club.

Members of the Lithuanian community wore green capes bordered with the national patterns of Ireland and Lithuania. Organiser Monika Balse said Ireland and Lithuania shared a history of fighting oppression and occupation.

Three thousand people participated in the parade with up to 50,00 spectators lining the streets on a bitterly cold day in Leeside.

County parades were also a huge success. More than 100 floats, bands and marching groups participated in one of Munster’s biggest St Patrick’s Day events in Mallow.

In Ballincollig parade organisers set up a large screen on the plaza of CastleWest Shopping Centre to make sure rugby fans wouldn't miss any of the action as Ireland take on England in Twickenham.

Local philanthropist Tom Cavanagh served as Grand Marshal at the Fermoy Parade. The participants included Fermoy Scout Group, Three Counties Motorcycle Group and Fermoy Community Pre School.

One of the shortest parades in the county was in Cape Clear with the festivities kicking off after the midday ferry from Baltimore. - Olivia Kelleher


Global Belfast was the theme for this year’s St Patrick’s Day parade in the city.

Thousands of people took part or watched the colourful Beat Carnival extravaganza snake its way through the city centre past City Hall before a concert at Custom House Square to celebrate Ireland's patron saint. Former JLS member Aston Merrygold; award winning modern Irish dancing group Slide Step, Belfast based Irish Festival Dancing School, Tír Na n-Óg, urban artists, Tanaka and JORD, Pure Blarney and the Rare Aul Stuff entertained the crowds.

Alliance Party Lord Mayor of Belfast Nuala McAllister, who led the parade said the theme of festivities reflected her desire for the city to be seen as a "open, welcoming and inclusive place". Efforts continue to encourage more people from different ethnic communities and from Protestant, unionist and loyalist backgrounds to get involved, feel welcome to watch the parade and take part in it. Linda Ervine from East Belfast Mission's Irish language project Turas led a delegation carrying a "building bridges" banner bearing the image of "Conn O'Neill the last Gaelic Lord of East Belfast".

“It’s our patron saint too so why shouldn’t we be here,” she said.

“It is wonderful for me, learners, families, kids to be part of the parade.”

Queen’s University Belfast’s International students’ support group took part in the parade for the first time.

Canadian law student Alexandra Born explained the students with her from China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Greece and other parts of Europe were all keen to be a part of Irish culture.

“It’s lovely,” she said.

“The weather is a little bit cold but the parade is such a beautiful time in Belfast.

"It's lovely to see Irish culture and everyone just so happy." - Amanda Ferguson


Marching bands lined out across County Galway for the annual St Patrick’s Day parades, but the biggest of them all will show their skills tomorrow at Pearse Stadium.

The University of Illinois Marching Band are in town to perform an hour long show ahead of the Galway versus Dublin Division 1 football match at the Salthill venue, but they were on hand to see the local talent as tens of thousands of Galwegians braved the perishing cold for the festivities. Star attraction for the Galway Parade was the Macnas offering, Danú, Goddess of the Divine and Dark.

The 20-foot tall warrior and mother, was joined by the Macnas Young Ensemble, led by James Riordan, as well as a team of musicians led by Macnas musical director Orlagh De Bhaldraithe.

As always there was huge variety throughout the parade with members of the Rhode Island, Providence and Massachusetts State Police marching, while six-foot sliotars and the Liam MacCarthy Cup joined local GAA clubs, including county champions Liam Mellows around the streets of the city.

Other eye catching groups were the Sea Scouts, Scoil Bhride Shantalla, the Irish Filipino community, and Duffy's Circus, who had plenty of animals and entertainment at hand. With the City Mayor representing Galway in its twin town, Seattle, the Galway parade was officially opened by Deputy Mayor of Galway, Cllr Mike Cubbard, who welcomed the thousands of spectators to the celebrations. "This year's St Patrick's Day Parade recognises and celebrates Galway, West of Ireland European Region of Gastronomy 2018 and I was delighted to attend the spectacular launch event for the year at the Spanish Arch last night," said Cllr Cubbard.

“Galway, West of Ireland European Region of Gastronomy 2018 is about showcasing our farmers, fishermen, food producers, our hospitality sector, our small businesses.”

As always there was an excellent representation by the emergency services, who added excellent colour and excitement to festivities, and Cllr Cubbard thanked them for their dedicated and brave services all year. "I want to commend and thank, on my own behalf and on behalf of the people of Galway, all our uniformed services represented here today: An Garda Síochána, Civil Defence and Galway Fire and Rescue Services. "In light of the tragic events which (were remembered) this week in Black Sod Bay, we join together to offer our sincere thanks and support to those brave men and women, these heroes! who, by their deep commitment and service, protect our community." - Declan Rooney


Colour, culture and a celebration of the circus hit the highlights for the 75,000 people who lined the route of the Limerick St Patrick’s Day parade. With the queen of Ireland’s National Circus Marian Fossett leading out some 4,000 participants, spectacular colour, fun and excitement was the order of the day for the Limerick crowds who lined O’Connell Street.

Some of the Limerick's youngest participants braved the chill as flag bearers, dancers and float representatives of the proud 100 community groups, clubs and organizations. Along with athletes from the Special Olympics and Limerick's finest sporting clubs, the Treaty city shone with its finest for St Patrick's day. 
The School of Spectacle worked with world renowned street theatre company Walk the Plank who brought their 'Whirling Wings Circus' to the parade. The entry was created by 25 local and international creative practitioners over the past week and featured still walkers, who walked the entire two kilometre route.

Artastic partnered with Limerick’s award winning Spotlight Stage School to co-create an upbeat dynamic entry while, Fidget Feet aerial performances brought colour, energy and awe to the parade.

LUXe presented their award winning “Cirque de Lune” with a highly skilled aerialist performing in a hoop suspended from their sky hook and another performing high in the air on a Chinese pole while a third performed high above the crowd in the Empress Tower. It was led by an exotic circus master riding wildly on his mechanical horse! Award winning Macnas’ entry was a nod to the early travelling sideshows.

High up her tower the ring-mistress hailed the arrival of her band of mischievous and musical minstrels and her wonderfully whacky troupe of circus sideshow performers.

A judging panel made up exclusively of children decided the parade winners. They were: Best Overall Performance — The Chinese Association of Ireland, Best Creative Performance – Cloughjordan Youth Circus, Best Youth Group – Fleming Ball Irish Dancing Academy, Best Musical Performance – Limerick City Rhythm Marching Band.  - Andrew Carey


Thousands of people in Derry braved flurries of snow and biting wind to watch a St Patrick’s Day parade celebrating the arrival of spring.

Led by St Patrick and the Colmcille Pipe Band and accompanied by the Celtic goddess Brigit and the Hindu goddess Bharamari - the "goddess of the bees" - each of the parade's floats were based around rebirth, renewal, and empowerment.

Between 15 and 20,000 spectators watched as flowers, bees and butterflies - and even a group of enthusiastic spring cleaners - danced their way along the parade route, as well as a giant snake slithering after St Patrick.

More than 1,200 people of all ages took part in the parade, which included participants from local schools, youth clubs and arts and cultural organisations including North West Carnival, North West Carnival, Greater Shantallow Community Arts, In Your Space and Bluebell Arts.

The mayor of Derry and Strabane, Maolíosa McHugh, said this year's parade had surpassed expectations.

“It was fantastic to see so many people out to support their community organisations who put on a fantastic display.

“I think that’s what makes our events so special, the sense of ownership from the community, and the fact that so many local people are involved in making them happen,” he said.

The 100th anniversary of women winning the right to vote was also marked in the parade.

Dance and drama students from local group Fireworks DDTA danced their way along the parade route dressed in the Suffragette colours, while others are parading wearing Suffragette costumes and carrying banners reading ‘Votes for Women’.

Younger member of Fireworks took part in workshops about identity and inclusion in the run up to the parade, and said they felt inspired by female role models to have greater belief in themselves.

"I think that's so important if we are to change attitudes," said dancer Stephanie Gaumond. "I have the opportunity to change the world and I am not afraid to be myself."

Derry's newest GAA club, CLG Culmore Cú Chulainns, also took part in the parade for the first time.

Players and coaches paraded armed with spears and shields accompanied by a giant mascot of Cuchulainn in a colourful depiction of the Irish mythological hero who gives the club their name.

"Cú Chulainn was a renowned figure in folklore who defended Ulster from attack and we felt he was a suitable symbol for the history of our area," said club chairman Dermot McErlean.

“Cú Chulainn was known for his bravery and we felt he was a figure who would inspire our young members and give them an identity to be proud of,” he said.

He hopes that taking part in the parade will give the young warriors of Culmore Cú Chulainns greater pride in their club - and their city.

“Our club is about much more than just excelling on the sports field, we want to offer young people the opportunity to participate in a range of activities and represent their community at different events.

"We were delighted that one of our first ever public appearances was in the parade," he said. - Freya McClements


St Patrick’s car broke down in Dingle shortly before lunchtime and he was forced to get out and lead the west Kerry town parade on shanks mare to the great amusement of onlookers and gardaí directing traffic.

This was St Patrick’s second appearance in the Dingle town - he was already around at 6am in the traditional pre-dawn parade by the town’s fife and drum band, a circuit in place since the era when Irish music could only be heard in darkness.

The Saint’s car breakdown meant he did not reach across Dingle Bay to Cahersiveen in time to banish the snakes . A giant snake emerged from alongside the sea in Cahersiveen made entirely out of materials that would normally end up in a landfill or a recycling bin.

Almost every town and village in Kerry held a parade today, with early starts in many places - to make sure to be in time for the rugby and the small matter of Kerry v Kildare in the Austin Stack Park in Tralee; Milltown in mid Kerry began before 11 as did Baile an Fheirtéaraigh.

In Killarney it is only a part of a weekend festival, to kick-start the tourist season, the parade danced to the tune of its tourist industry traced to the 1861 visit of Queen Victoria and its theme of “Killarney You are looking Good! “

Grand Marshall Yvonne Quill of the Tidy Towns committee even travelled in an 1861 Victorian carriage, specially restored for the parade. Killarney went green at midnight with Ross Castle as well as St Mary’s Cathedral and several of the leading hotels coloured.

Sneem was the focal point for Kenmare and that part of south Kerry where a day long fair and festival took place.

Tralee came out strongly for St Patrick, showcasing its newly paved Mall area even taking a new route from the Rose Hotel named after the town’s annual Rose of Tralee festival .

A giant St Patrick was the toast of Tralee along with a float with the Muppets - ponies, show and rescue dogs joined in the fun where the theme was Tralee: Ireland’s most enterprising town.” And the grand marshall was Kerry businessman Dan Horan. The county museum opened its doors to the public for free.

North of Tralee, Listowel set out early with 11am mass "as Gaeilge" from St Mary's Church broadcast on RTÉ One Radio. Dancing and craic followed in the square, before the parade. Killorglin's parade saw the local fire service turn out in force and there was dancing and music in the library square for most of the afternoon. Watverville held its parade late in the afternoon. - Anne Lucey