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‘It’s a big happy party!’ – Thousands fill Dublin’s streets to celebrate St Patrick’s Day

Excited children and fun-loving visitors thronged Dublin’s streets on Sunday to catch sight of Ireland’s energetic national St Patrick’s Day parade.

Attendees packed the city centre to the brim, wearing shamrock-shaped sunglasses, Irish jerseys and leprechaun hats of all sizes.

Visitors travelled from as far away as Bolivia, California and China to catch a glimpse of the vibrant spectacle – a mixture of talent, creativity and pure silliness.

St Patrick’s Day Parade – Dublin
Performers take part in the St Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin (Michael Chester/PA)

People gathered at the barriers from early in the morning in their green and tricolour gear, bringing snacks and tea in flasks as they waited for the noon start time.

Many attendees said they had travelled to take part in what they said was a worldwide “party”.

“It’s a big party, we’re here to have fun. People are very kind and friendly and we love the country,” Flavie Rougier from France said, who was visiting Dublin for three days with her mother Joelle and their friend Mathilde.

St Patrick’s Day Parade – Dublin
German Anaya, Michael Gilmore, Ann Gilmore, Jimmy Conroy and Aisling Conroy at the St Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin (Michael Chester/PA)

Aisling Conroy from Donaghmede said that it was a chance to have “everyone together”, which was especially valued after the Covid-19 pandemic and even more appealing in the sunny weather.

“It’s a happy party!” Karen said, who travelled to Dublin with six friends from California.

“It’s been great, everybody has been very friendly,” added her travel companion Larry, who has Irish roots. “It’s a great time to celebrate both the religious aspect of St Patrick but also the cultural aspect.”

The holiday commemorates Ireland’s patron saint and has become popular around the world.

While St Patrick’s Day falls on March 17, some parades were moved to Saturday in the US because Sunday is a day of worship for the Christian faithful.

St Patrick’s Day Parade – Dublin
Performers take part in the St Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin (Michael Chester/PA)

The Dublin parade featured performers dressed as sea creatures, as ancient Celtic goddesses, as Dublin’s landmark street lamps, and a group of greedy giant gulls.

It also showcased traditions from countries such as Bolivia, Ukraine, Georgia and Brazil.

One segment took an imaginative look at what it meant to be “110% Irish” – featuring a group of red-wigged men all wearing the same connected Aran jumper.

St Patrick’s Day Parade – Dublin
A ‘110% Irish’ performance as part of the St Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin (Michael Chester/PA)

In Belfast, thousands of people gathered to watch as a colourful and noisy parade made its way through the city centre.

Lord Mayor Ryan Casey led the carnival procession as it departed from outside City Hall.

Dancers, drummers, giant characters in costume and brightly coloured props delighted the crowds, young and old, along the route.

A light rain shower amid the spring sunshine failed to dampen the spirits as the Northern Ireland capital partied for the patron saint.

New Late Late Show presenter Patrick Kielty, the grand marshal of the national parade in Dublin, described Ireland’s national day as “the biggest party in the world”.

Kielty said that as a man called Patrick, who is from Downpatrick in Co Down, and who attended St Patrick’s School, he was “the proudest man in Ireland”.

The TV presenter said that it was “a massive honour” to be the grand marshal, adding it was “emotional” for him.

“To be the Patrick at the front of this parade is one of the proudest moments of my life.”

Speaking to the PA news agency, he said: “I think St Patrick’s Day is so important to people because it gives us all a chance to share in something, it brings a lot of people together. I think sometimes here we maybe take it for granted.

Tourist from Switzerland ahead of the St Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin
Tourists from Switzerland ahead of the St Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin (Michael Chester/PA)

“As someone who has lived abroad and knows what that day means to so many people who are longing for a connection to their lives back home, that’s what it’s about.”

“Especially when you come from the north, growing up, St Patrick’s grave was at the Church of Ireland, basically everything that used to happen through some type of binary prism.

“The idea of we’re now in a position where we can actually share these things, I think that’s why today is so important.”

Asked if he will be able to enjoy the day with so much pressure on him, he said: “Let’s be very, very clear, there’s definitely going to be a lot of fun squeezed out of this.

“This is normally like my second birthday, so we will definitely be celebrating to the max.”

There were some protests over Gaza held in the city centre to coincide with the traditional shamrock ceremony in the White House between Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and US President Joe Biden.

A group called Mothers Against Genocide organised a kayak, carrying a cutout of Joe Biden, to travel up the Liffey towards Dublin’s famous Ha’penny Bridge ahead of the parade beginning.

One woman was also heard chanting “Free Free Palestine” at marching bands in the parade who were from the US.