The annual St Patrick's Day parades in Cork city, Limerick and Ennis have been cancelled this year as a result of the difficulties caused by Covid-19.

The pandemic also forced the cancellation of last year's events.

In a statement, Cork City Council said that planning is under way to mark the national holiday with a programme of activity that can be enjoyed safely in the days leading up to 17 March.

Limerick City and County Council said that in the absence of a parade, it will concentrate on an online event involving the "greening" of the city and county "celebrating the history, heritage, food  and architecture of the county, and reaching out to and celebrating our diaspora".

Clare County Council also said that the parade in Ennis would be replaced with a virtual/online event.

Meanwhile, some 50 festival organisers in Co Cork have signed up for an online training programme to give them the skills to host their events virtually this year.

Organised by Cork County Council, the aim of the three-week course is to equip festival planners with the tools needed to deliver a "virtual festival".

The ten online sessions, beginning at the end of this month, will include video production and editing, digital marketing, content marketing, and social media advertising.

Cork County Council CEO Tim Lucey said the county's 100 festivals are an important part of Cork's tourism offering.

"In 2021, we want to ensure that festivals are well equipped to incorporate virtual elements into their events and to maximise their skills in areas such as marketing and content creation.

"This will help to keep culture alive throughout the county during these difficult times".

It comes as  Waterford City and County Council announced that the traditional St Patrick's Day parade will not happen this year.

The parade was cancelled last year and today's move was expected following the recent escalation of case numbers and the reintroduction of Level 5 restrictions.

According to the council, a decision on "a re-imagined format" will be made during the next week in consultation with event organisers and funders.

Reporting Jennie O'Sullivan, Cathy Halloran & Conor Kane