Saint Patrick wearing SAVE TARA t-shirt in Dublin Parade. Photograph courtesy of Niall Carson, PA.
Cities and towns put final touches to big day plans
Irish Times - 17 march 2008
FIVE DAYS of St Patrick's Festival events will culminate in Ireland's biggest ever St Patrick's Day parade in Dublin today. More than 3,000 participants will take part in this year's parade, which will begin snaking its way through the city centre at noon. It will start at Parnell Square North and travel down O'Connell Street, passing the grandstand at the GPO, from where President Mary McAleese will be watching. The parade will then go up Westmoreland Street, turn on to Dame Street and up to Christchurch Cathedral before ending at St Patrick's Cathedral. The parade may move a little quicker this year as Olympian athlete Eamonn Coghlan will be Grand Marshal. This year marks 25 years since he broke the world record for the indoor mile.
The spectacle is expected to take two hours to wind its way along the 3km route and organisers estimate that it will attract more than 500,000 people. The parade will also be broadcast live on RTÉ. Some 16 marching bands from countries such as the US, Japan and Italy will provide entertainment. There will be 11 pageants from street theatre companies and theatre groups from Ireland and further afield. The Céilí Mór, which is being billed as the world's largest outdoor Irish music and dance event, will then get under way at Earlsfort Terrace at 2.30 pm.
Meanwhile, in Cork some 50 floats will take part in the parade which will start at 1pm at the Parnell Place end of the South Mall. Roads will be closed in the area from noon to 5pm. Belfast's St Patrick's Day celebrations will centre on a carnival parade, which leaves City Hall at 12pm. It will be followed by a free concert in the 5,000-capacity Custom House Square at 1pm. The Galway parade starts at Dominick Street at 12.30pm, before making its way to the city's Eyre Square. The parade will feature a traditional Nigerian tribe from the Association of Nigerians in Galway, Bog People from Macnas, a Norse tribe and boat from the Galway Traveller Movement, and a tribe of "St Patricks with snakes" from the Brothers of Charity.
The Limerick city parade will begin at 12 noon and will be grand marshalled by the Munster rugby team's most capped player Anthony Foley. You're a Star finalist Leanne Moore will also travel home from Dublin to take part in the event. The theme of this year's parade is "The United Colours of Limerick" and multi-cultural groups with origins in Poland, Nigeria and the Philippines will take part. Waterford's St Patrick's Day parade takes place on the City Quays from 1pm. The parade in Dingle, in Co Kerry will be the first of the day in the country as it will be held pre-dawn as usual. The Tralee parade kicks off at noon on JJ Sheehy Road. Members of the Kingdom's All-Ireland football winning team will carry the Sam Maguire trophy along the parade and the town square will feature traditional music over the weekend.
The Killarney parade will begin at Ross Road at 2pm and will be led by Antarctic explorer Pat Falvey. Listowel marked its 30th annual St Patrick's Day parade yesterday with contributions by several sporting groups including the Kerry County GAA club champions, the local Feale Rangers. Other parades were held in Kilflynn and Causeway. Durrow, Co Laois also beat the rush by holding its 18th century "non-motorised" St Patrick's Day parade yesterday. The village is celebrating its 300th anniversary and this was reflected in the floats which included 18th century themed carriages with locals dressed in period costumes.
Meanwhile, the TaraWatch group which is campaigning against the route of the M3 motorway in Meath, has criticised the failure of Navan Meath Chambers of Commerce and Meath County Council to hold a St Patrick's Day parade.
"The same people who are championing the Government-sponsored destruction of Tara, are also telling us that Saint Patrick is no longer worth celebrating," Vincent Salafia of TaraWatch said.
Tara protesters parade in Sydney
Irish Times - 17 March 2008
John Ingram, an Aboriginal man with Irish heritage, led the parade dressed as St Patrick in Sydney, writes Pádraig Collins.
A GROUP opposed to the construction of a motorway near the Hill of Tara in Co Meath paraded past the Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey at yesterday's St Patrick's Day parade in Sydney. The Tara Appreciation Society's parade entry featured about 10 people behind a banner saying "Tara - 7,000 years of Irish History". "It's great, wonderful democracy. I was delighted to see Tara promoted," Mr Dempsey told The Irish Times.
In contrast to the rest of the marchers, who were mostly wearing green, the Tara Appreciation Society members stood out by mostly wearing black. The group's website said their lack of numbers in the parade was "due to approaches to the [St Patrick's Day parade] committee". "While we wanted this to be a festive community effort allowing families, etc, to join us in celebrating Tara's unique history . . . we have now restricted who can join us in the parade."
The protest has not led to a change of heart though. "There are procedures that are decided upon," Mr Dempsey said. This year's parade, which was watched by a crowd of about 10,000, was led by John Ingram, an Aboriginal man with Irish heritage, who was dressed as St Patrick. All 32 counties were represented in the parade, as were Irish cultural organisations, Sydney GAA clubs and local pipe bands.
"This year was as good as it has ever been," said Tommy McAdam from Co Monaghan, who has lived in Sydney since 1956. "There were more floats than I've seen before and there's a great crowd watching too." Also enjoying the parade was Sister Christina O'Connor of the Sisters of St Joseph, whose mother was from Wexford and father from Clare. "The Patrician Brothers and World Youth Day sections were very good," said Sr Christina.
The Catholic Church's World Youth Day, which is held every three years, is being held in Sydney in July. Swiss man Racheed Ahmed was wearing a Kerry jersey while watching the parade. "One of the Irish girls I work with gave it to me," he said. "We are the only west Europeans where I work. I've been to every St Patrick's Day parade in Sydney since 1996."
Irish Times - Opinion, 17 March 2008
WHAT AN interesting St Patrick's Day this is, with the Hill of Tara under siege by Government forces and the Irish language's only hope of survival residing with Des Bishop. It is probably just as well that our parliamentary representatives are on the guts of a month's holidays, worn out from counting their money, writes Anne-Marie Hourinhane
Not much other news, really, except for the implosion of our rugby team and the understandable excitement caused by the fact that 100 new jobs have been created at the Homecare store in Cavan. Thank goodness the Fianna Fáil press office had the good sense to issue a press release on the subject of the latter event.
So, all in all, we have to say that this Irish language revival business is not really such a big surprise. Things are kind of slow. There are those of us who suspect that the Irish language often raises its tired old head at such moments of cultural sluggishness. As Des Bishop has it, we're turning to the first national language now that every Irish town has a Starbucks. In other words, when we haven't got any other ideas.
Perhaps it was the same for Pádraig Pearse, for whom Irish really was a first love. When he went to lecture the men of Connemara about how important it was for them to stay where they were and speak the Irish language, they replied that the language was no good to them "beyond the burned house".
The burned house was a derelict building on the outskirts of their town. It marked the beginning of the outside world, where they had to go to find work to support their families. Pearse's reply to this is, as far as I know, unrecorded.
Poor Pearse, his own Irish was criticised by some fellow language activists as inferior, and this hurt him deeply. Irish language experts always muttered to each other about someone having "lovely Irish", and it seemed that you could not acquire this lovely Irish easily, no matter how hard you tried. Like most elites, this is one into which you supposedly had to be born. And the laugh of it all was that the people who were really born into it - such as the poor of Connemara and of the Blaskets - were left in grinding poverty, their communities destroyed. And they had to go off to speak their lovely Irish in America.
You have to admire the sectarianism of Irish. In such a tiny country, there do seem to be an awful lot of different ways to speak it; the language has been used by a series of secret societies to keep out the stranger.
Before we launch into a 21st-century version of Buntus Cainte we should take time out to lie down for a couple of hours with a copy of Hugo Hamilton's The Speckled People, a portrait of a home where Irish reigned supreme and terrifying.
One of the most bitter arguments I ever witnessed was at a wedding reception in west Belfast, at the height of the hunger strikes. It was about the ability to speak Irish. A married couple were insulted because they had been slighted for not being able to speak Irish.
The husband pointed out that they had never had the opportunity to learn it, because neither of them had been in jail. He further pointed out that both he and his wife had collected money faithfully for the local Irish language classes. This man was almost in tears. Of course we were all, as that old Gaelic scholar, Paul Whitehouse, would put it, frightfully drunk. Nevertheless, that was the moment when I realised that the Irish language was a competitive sport. This has been off-putting for someone who didn't learn what "le cunadh De" meant until she was 44.
If only Irish came by itself, instead of trailing the puritanism, the cliquishness and the superiority that have been its death knell for the past century. In modern times the Irish language has always been a protest. It became the hijab of our fragile Irishness - a little fragment of cloth which was a symbol of rejection of the modern world, and hatred of it. It was imposed by men and women who had won some sort of ideological war, but who were a tad short on ideology. Let's not take it up again now just because we've been forced to take a break from house buying.
To hear teenagers quietly speaking Irish. To read Maurice O'Sullivan's Twenty Years A-Growing. To find out that the endearment "macushla" comes from the Irish word for pulse. These are the things that would encourage a person to look more closely at the Irish language.
It is interesting to hear that there is an Irish-language lunch each Thursday in the Law Library, where they munch a few "ceapairí" (sandwiches) through the medium, but it doesn't exactly send you running for the dictionary, does it? I mean, if barristers are that patriotic why don't they just drop their fees? But then, as the old saying goes, all beginnings are weak."