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North celebrates St. Patrick anew

By Anthony Neeson

Ten years ago you would have been hard pressed to find a St Patrick's Day parade in Northern Ireland, however, as another sign of the cultural changes taking place, it seems that every town and city now has a parade of its own.

As a result, tens of thousands of people celebrated the patron saint's day with parades and concerts from Derry to Belfast and Enniskillen to Armagh.

One of the biggest parades was in Belfast, where the city council celebrated the St. Patrick's festival over four days, including dramas, talks, exhibitions, and arts and crafts.

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The carnival left the city hall at noon and made its way to Custom House Square for an open air concert headlined by the Amelia Lily. Thousands lined the route waving tricolors.

Deputy Lord Mayor of Belfast, Sinn Féin's Tierna Cunningham, said it was a great day out for everyone.

"Ultimately, it's about celebrating St. Patrick but it's also about having fun and that's what we need in this city; a bit of fun and a bit of vibrancy and a bit of color," she said.

"It's just been fantastic, everybody is having a great time."

In Derry, thousands descended onto the city center for the St. Patrick's Day parade which has only been in existence for a couple of years. With the city celebrating its year as City of Culture, the streets were buzzing with families enjoying the carnival and later concert.

In Enniskillen, history was turned on its head as St. Patrick arrived in town onboard a Viking long ship.

If St. Patrick was reputed to have expelled snakes from Ireland, he missed one as the parade through the town was led by what organizers described as the "longest snake in Ireland." It had been decorated and carried by hundreds of children.

This was just the third year volunteers put on a festival in Enniskillen but with the atmosphere around the Fermanagh town it now looks like a permanent fixture.

Thousands of people bedecked in green also took to the streets of Newry, Armagh, Downpatrick, Omagh and Dungannon for their own St. Patrick's Day festivities.