Lord mayor hails return of ‘vibrancy and colour’ to city

Rain failed to dampen spirits in Belfast as the St Patrick’s Day parade returned to the city after a three-year absence.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 18th March 2022, 7:49 am

Crowds lined the streets to witness the colourful showpiece of this year’s March 17 festivities.

Parades were cancelled across the island of Ireland in March 2020 at the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In Belfast, the event returned with a bang as floats, street artists and dance troupes made their way through the city centre.

Thousands have attended the annual St. Patrick's Day parade in Belfast. Onlookers enjoy the St. Patrick's Day parade, as it makes it's way through Belfast city centre. Picture by Philip Magowan / PressEye

Hundreds of people had gathered in sunshine at city hall ahead of the event but just minutes before Lord Mayor Kate Nicholl led off the parade the rain started to fall.

However, the mood remained upbeat as onlookers cheered and clapped amid a carnival atmosphere.

Parades returned in towns and cities across Northern Ireland on yesterday, including Armagh, Downpatrick and Londonderry.

Lord Mayor Ms Nicholl, who is seven months pregnant, pushed her two-and-a-half-year-old son Cian in a pram at the front of the parade.

She said it was great to see a bit of normality return to the city after the pandemic.

“It’s incredible,” she told the PA news agency.

“I remember when we had to cancel the last one and just that feeling of uncertainty and fear and wondering if it was the right thing even to do, and it obviously was, and who would have known that it was going to be another two years until we could have this.

“So it feels like we’re really coming through, a really positive day for the city.

“Just look around at the colour and the vibrancy and people in the city centre.

“It’s been dead in the city centre for the last two years and people haven’t had the opportunity to come together and to celebrate very much. So this is a really special day.”

Of her role at the head of the parade, she said: “I’m leading the parade at seven months pregnant and I brought the pram so I wouldn’t have to dance.

“No-one warned you how humiliating it can be being lord mayor – you have to dance at every opportunity. So I’m just going to dance a little bit today.”

In Belfast the parade left city hall at 1pm and travelled along Donegall Place, into High Street, Bridge Street and Waring Street and finish in Donegall Street close to Writers’ Square.

Organisers said the theme was “We are all Patrick, we are all Belfast”.

Meanwhile in Dublin, the parade began at Parnell Square and made its way through O’Connell Street and around College Green, before winding through Lord Edward Street and ending in Kevin Street at around 2pm.

Members of Ireland’s Ukrainian community led the parade, with the Irish and Ukrainian flags held side by side in a sign of the country’s solidarity.

Olympic boxer Kellie Harrington and Paralympic swimmer Ellen Keane were the grand marshals.

Hollywood actor John C Reilly was the international guest of honour at the Dublin parade.

He was dressed in a green tweed suit from Dublin’s famed Louis Copeland & Sons store.