Due to my brother picking St Patrick’s Day to die on, for 14 years I have not really ‘celebrated’ our national day. In recent years, my husband has taken our younger daughters to the local parade in Bray which retains the charm of a local community event. Last year, I joined them and enjoyed it very much.
This year however, I felt that the children were old enough to brave the huge crowds in the city and that it was time for me to reclaim my St Patrick’s Day. So we decided to Luas it into town and check out the biggest and best Paddy’s Day Parade in the world.
We headed to Westmoreland Street where we claimed a spot in a 5 deep crowd. There we stood for over half an hour in a sea of huge leprechaun hats, luminous green wigs, and oversized shamrock sunglasses listening to a variety of languages and accents all around us – few of which were local. The international audience is wonderful and excitement and good humour was high. But once the parade started we realised that the children could really see almost nothing. Husband salvaged the day by spotting a shop which was open, and had a first floor window. A quick word with the shop owner and we had a bird’s eye view of the proceedings.
What a difference 14 years makes. Yesterday’s parade was a wonderful spectacle – full of colour and creativity and imagination. But it was Mardi Gras. It could have been Rio de Janeiro or Notting Hill. Other than the sea of lurid green in the crowd, I was left wondering what this parade had to do with being Irish or Ireland. As it finished, realisation dawned on me that we may have lost something precious. This was not my parade.
My parade had lots of big volume marching bands from the US, but it also had big corporate floats which were not just a fleet of newly washed vans. Does anyone else remember Abel Alarms who often had the best big float of the parade? Aer Lingus were usually represented as were ESB and other semi state companies of the decades past. There were steam engines and Irish dancers. And I think that our little Air Corps did a fly past too. My parade was all about Ireland and what we have to proud and grateful for.
The crowd yesterday were adorned in all kinds of greenery from hula skirts to Scottish tartan berets – I kid you not. There was not a sprig of wilting shamrock or tricolour rosette in sight. Where was my La Le Padraig?. I am all for progress and change and I love the colour and creativity that the new parade has in abundance. But I think we may have thrown out the baby with the bathwater. Yesterday was Mardi Paddy. But I am Irish and although it was great fun, it was not my parade.