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ST PATRICK'S DAY 2000: IT'S THE GREEN MILLENNI-FUN; Record numbers turn out for St Pat's party.

IRELAND let its hair down in style for the first St Patrick's Day hooley of the new millennium.

The only thing that wasn't Irish on the day was the weather, as Ireland's patron saint shone down on the Emerald Isle to keep the usual showers at bay.

Tourists from all over the world flooded in to the country to be at the centre of the action as the world became Irish for a day.

Parades all over Ireland registered record attendances as for once the rain stayed away on the big day.

The largest was in Dublin where 500,000 people turned up to see Pauline McLynn, who played Father Ted's housekeeper Mrs Doyle, act as the grand marshal.

Roads around the city centre were closed off from early morning as families poured in to get a good vantage point.

They were treated to an extravaganza with floats and bands from all corners of the world.

The party continued in Dublin in the afternoon when thousands flocked to St Stephen's Green to party at the traditional ceili.

President Mary McAleese brought a more serious note to the festivities.

"St Patrick's message to us is that all things are possible through hope, patience, forgiveness and respectful dialogue with others," she told the crowds.

"We have seen how putting that message into practice has enabled the landscape of relationship within Northern Ireland and between the people of the two neighbouring islands.

"Much remains to be done but Patrick's message continues to guide us, as we work for lasting peace and reconciliation on the island of Ireland."

Snakes, 75-foot long dragons, giant drums, jugglers, majorettes, stiltwalkers, saints and scholars - and of course St Patrick himself - kept the crowds entertained throughout the two-hour spectacle.

St Patrick may have banished the snakes but he forgot about aliens who turned up in force at the St Patrick's Day Parade in CORK.

All human life - along with a few dozen extra-terrestrial visitors - took part in the colourful extravaganza in Leeside.

Among the most popular with the 40,000 viewers were the City Arts Link with their dazzling array of aliens and space creatures.

Among the many marching groups were the Boston Gaelic Fire Brigade and Boston Police Gaelic Column pipe bands.

The two visiting bands joined with over half-a-dozen local pipe and brass bands to ensure stirring airs soared over Cork.

Warriors from UCC's Medieval and Renaissance Society - looking like extras from Braveheart - battle in the streets.

Meanwhile, in mid-Cork, the tiny village of Dripsey was marching into the record books for the second time in two years.

Last year, Dripsey held the shortest ever St Patrick's Day parade when participants walked between the village's two pubs.

In GALWAY, refugees from Nigeria, the Congo and Russia were greeted with massive cheers from the crowd when their One World Centre float made an appearance in city's parade.

Over 45,000 revellers lined the streets for the carnival led by marching bands from San Francisco and Boston.

In MAYO, one of the longest parades was greeted by the usual cheering crowds on Achill Island.

The 13-hour marathon trek kicked off at 6am with islanders waking up to the sound of the local pipe band.

In nearby Westport, RTE Grand Prix commentator Peter Collins was the grand marshal for the parade in his native town.

The Lord Mayor and Mayoress of Leeds, Keith and Lenny Parjer, were special guests at the Home to Mayo parade in Castlebar.

In MEATH, St Patrick returned to the Hill of Tara, Co Meath, when a statue of Ireland's patron saint was unveiled.

The new white marble model, donated by the Sisters of Charity, will replace the original which was taken down in 1992 due to decay.

Meath Deputy Mary Wallace said she was honoured to be invited to the unveiling ceremony on the Hill of Tara for such a momentous occasion.

"It is fitting that Christianity, our national apostle and the generations who suffered so much to preserve our Christian heritage should be honoured on the Hill of Tara," said Minister Wallace.

In WATERFORD, more than 3,000 performers took part in the parade.

Jugglers, floats and street actors were cheered on by an estimated 12,000 spectators who lined the route with the main crowds concentrating outside city hall.

Six local marching bands pro- vided the music and the atmosphere was electric as 35 floats added a splash of colour and class to the city's St Patrick's star.

The biggest crowd pleaser was the giant Harley Davidson motorcycle, which won top prize at last year's Dublin parade.

In LIMERICK, 30,000 people turned out to enjoy the celebrations.

There were 70 entries in the parade which was reviewed by the mayor, councillor Jack Burke, the city fathers and religious figures.

The Massachusetts State Highway Patrol men marched with local Gardai joined by a Cambridge Police honour guard.

However, for the second successive year ENNIS, the capital of Co Clare, had no parade.

A spokesperson for the Clare Branch of the Vintners Association said: "It has been traditional that the town had a parade, but it hasn't happened this year or last.

"We aren't happy with this situation because it was one of the biggest days of the year for us."

In SLIGO, a 190-strong group including 120 children from south and east Belfast took centre stage in the county town's biggest ever St Patrick's Day parade.

The colourfully costumed group comprised of the Sandy Row Residents Group, the Ballymacarrett Arts and Cultural Society and the South Belfast Cultural Society.

Thousands lined the sun-drenched streets as the parade, which took almost two hours to pass the reviewing stand, made its way through the town.

More than 20 floats and 12 bands took part.

The Sandy Row Group's float, depicting the voyage of the ill-fated Titanic, was awarded first prize in the parade's community arts section.
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Author:Young, Caoimhe
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Mar 18, 2000
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