An estimated half a million people turned out to watch the Saint Patrick's Day Parade in Dublin today. The record number was boosted by bright sunshine and warm temperatures. The parade got underway just after 12pm this afternoon, but the day's events in Dublin, began this morning at around 9am with an international marching bands' competition. Eighty Harley Davidson motorcyclists followed behind the bands along the parade route from Saint Patrick's Cathedral to Parnell Square.
This year's parade marked the culmination of a week of festive celebrations. Dublin's five-day Saint Patrick's Festival got underway on Saturday with a massive firework display, which marked the start of Ireland's Millennium celebrations. The main parade included Ireland's Millennium Drum, which is being hailed as the world's biggest drum. The parade was followed by a monster céilí at Saint Stephen's Green.
While the capital is claiming Ireland's biggest Saint Patrick's Festival Parade ever, County Cork is hoping to claim the World's smallest ever parade. In Dripsey in County Cork, between 3,000 and 4,000 people turned out to watch a parade, which was just 25 yards long, from one pub to another. John Sheehan, the owner of one of the pubs, the Lee Valley Inn, said that the village is hoping to get into the Guinness Book of Records.
In an even stranger move, the small County Leitrim village of Keshcarrigan today claimed the country's first ever invisible Saint Patrick's Day parade. In previous years the village, which has a population of eighteen and two pubs, has held a backwards parade and celebrated Saint Patrick's Day in the middle of February. Today locals in Kescarrigan welcomed "invisible" visitors Boris Yeltsin, Pamela Anderson and a herd of African elephants. Local parade organiser Des Foley claims the visitors are only visible to those who live in Keshcarrigan.
In Limerick, over 30,000 spectators lined the streets in brilliant sunshine to see the city's parade. Many said it was the best weather for Saint Patrick's day in over thirty years. The parade in Limerick is the highlight of the city's civic week. Over 60 community and commercial groups took part in the parade. One of the highlights was the entry from the Limerick School project in which 250 children from the city took to the streets in a Space Ark. This year members of the Massachusetts State police took part in the parade along with members of the US Military training academy. RTE's Morbegs also took to the streets of Limerick to highlight the arrival of the country's newest national radio station, Lyric FM, which opens in Limerick on May 1.
More than 30,000 also watched the Galway parade, where the emphasis was on the city and county's latest sporting, cultural and artistic success stories. Pride of place this year was given to the Sam Maguire Cup which headed the parade of more than 60 marching bands, performing groups and floats. There was a large contingent from Galway twin town Lorient in Brittany as well as thousands of US visitors. To mark the 75th anniversary of Galway’s Irish speaking First Army Battalion, An Céad Cath, the original armoured car used by Michael Collins at Slievenamon made a rare appearance, as did a motor bike owned by the patriot Liam Mellows who lead the Easter Rising in Galway.
Belfast was also reported to be awash with green today as several thousand spectators took advantage of the warm weather and gathered for the city's second ever Saint Patrick's Day carnival led by a Mardi Gras band.