On a grey March day, the 2023 St Patrick’s Day Parade transformed Cork into a kaleidoscope of colour as crowds gathered from near and far to celebrate Ireland’s patron saint in the city.
This year’s parade welcomed over 3,500 participants in 55 groups, to a theme of ‘A Century of Stories’ in what was Cork’s largest ever St Patrick’s Day Parade.
Colour and culture filled the streets between South Mall and Merchant’s Quay, with Laura O’Mahony, presenter of Breakfast on Cork’s RedFM MCing the parade, who joined The Echo as media partners for the event.
Despite the occasional threat of rain, the people of Cork were not deterred and turned out in force to watch the procession.
The parade kicked off at 1pm at the junction of South Mall and Parnell Place before making its way along South Mall and Grand Parade, then up Patrick Street where it finished on Merchants Quay.
Amongst a sea of novelty leprechaun hats and festive green clothing, members of the crowds were ‘ar mhuin na muice’ as they reveled in the joyous atmosphere of the event.
Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Deirdre Forde, welcomed the crowd, as the city held its first restriction free parade since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, inviting the public “to share in the celebration of all that is good about our city and about our national culture”.
She continued: “Wherever you have a parade, let us all come out and support for everyone that has worked so hard to make this weekend very special.
"We’re not going to worry about the weather, because we can’t do anything about that. Lá Fhéile Pádraig Shona Duit.”
The solidarity through sport movement, The Sanctuary Runners, led the parade as the 2023 Grand Marshals, with founder Graham Clifford telling The Echo: “It was the most amazing honour to lead the parade today in this city of welcomes. The crowd were wonderful, the colour, the vibrancy, the joy.
“Today was proudly and loudly sending a message, that all are to be treated with respect and kindness in this beautiful city on the Lee, regardless of where you are originally from. We were high as kites on adrenalin afterwards. Thank you, Cork.”
Traditionally celebrating what it means to be Irish, this year’s Patrick’s Day celebration welcomed a whole host of international groups featuring in the procession.
The city’s position as a multicultural hub was showcased through the various nationalities that are proud to call Ireland their home.
Cork’s Polish School and the Polish Scout Group ‘Zarzewie’ turned out in force to represent the city’s large Polish community, with red and white flags mixing amongst the tricolours.
This was followed by the Indian Community of Cork, dressed in their traditional attire, who filled the streets with the sounds and colours of India.
A clear favourite amongst the crowd was the Falun Gong group who earned gasps from excited children as their golden dragon snaked through the streets.
Originally native to France but has called Cork home for a number of years, was Magali, who has fully embraced the Irish culture since her move to the Emerald Isle.
“The parade this year is great. Even, me and my friends were saying just now that it has really improved year on year since we have been coming and the floats have been really cool this year,” she said.
“We were here last year for the parade, but it definitely has a different atmosphere now, the crowds are fully back.”
“My daughter has been practicing Céili at school so she planning to dance Céili for us this evening and sing some Irish songs for us. It might sound weird, but since coming here we may possibly be more Irish than the Irish in the end,” she said.
Cork Airport estimated that 43,000 passengers passed through the airport ahead of the festivities this weekend.
Once such traveller was Denis Johnson, who made the voyage from Colorado to Cork to witness the unique “craic” that the Irish had to offer.
“One thing we have learned since being here is that it is defiantly not pronounced St Patty’s Day, that’s one mistake we have made.
“This is our first-time visiting Ireland, our ancestors hail from Kinsale here in county Cork so we really feel like we are coming home. The atmosphere here has been great so far and we are looking forward to experiencing more of Cork and the festival over the weekend.”
As the parade continued with appearances from Rebel Circus, Neptune Basketball Club and the Rebel Wheelers, the light drizzle of rain did little to dampen the spirits of the joyous onlookers that were trying to get the best view.
Attempting to use the iconic Echo Boy statue on Patrick’s Street as a vantage point for a better view of the festivities was five-year-old Sadbh Walsh from Grenagh.
“My favourite part of St Patrick’s Day is going to the parade,” Sadbh explained as she watched the parade fully kitted out in green, alongside her father Donal and the bronze statue.
“Its great to see the parade back up and running after it being away with Covid. It’s fantastic to see all the activity and the events going on again in the city. The parade is the main event for us today and then we will go get a bite to eat and meet up with family to celebrate,” Mr Walsh said.
Restaurants, bars and shops across the city centre were bustling as revelers after the parade filtered out to refuel before continuing their celebration elsewhere.
One such business welcoming the hungry masses was the owner of Masseytown Rotisserie Deli on Paul’s Street, Tom Creedon.
Queues were seen lining up outside the eatery in pursuit of a special St Patrick’s Day treat.
“We have a novelty item out the front of the deli today, we have green candy floss. The candy floss is absolutely flying. The kids seem to love it and it’s lovely to see everyone out with smiles on their faces today and we are all having a great time,” the owner said as he served eager customers their colourful treat.
A strong Garda presence ensured the safety of the parade goers, as well as the Order of Malta who were on hand in case of emergency.
Thankfully however, the parade, which lasted just over an hour, went off without a hitch. It was just one of many events around the city this weekend, as the St Patrick’s Festival and the buzz it brings to Cork city continues.