Ailin Quinlan: Giving St Patrick’s Day parades green light is sheer madness

It would not be the end of the world if this country’s biggest St Patrick’s Day Parade — Dublin — was cancelled, so says Ailin Quinlan
Ailin Quinlan: Giving St Patrick’s Day parades green light is sheer madness

A tribute to Echo Boys at last year’s Cork St Patrick’s Day Parade — but this year’s event should be cancelled, says Áilín Quinlan

AS a child, I loved St Patrick’s Day.

This was because, when we were small, a parcel would always arrive in about mid-March from our granny in Wexford.

There would be big green St Patrick’s Day rosettes for each of us, and St Patrick’s Day cards with a few bob in them to buy sweets at the parade.

The excitement of the parcel’s arrival signalled that St Patrick’s Day was a very big deal, and we proudly wore our rosettes to the parade while stuffing ourselves with the sweets bought with the money granny sent.

But then I grew up.

I got tired of being rained on and being trodden on and never getting to see anything up close or properly.

I wearied of having to watch much bigger and much more exciting and spectacular parades on TV, taking place in countries which had never been graced by St Patrick and his snake-dispelling staff.

These countries, I understood, still had serpents, unlike our lucky little island, because unlike us, they had not benefited from any special intervention by the saint — and yet for most of my childhood they seemed to make far more of a fuss of St Patrick than Ireland did, with its silly home-made costumes and wonky hand-written signs on tractor-trailers.

As a child and a teenager, I often wondered how come our parades seemed so small and so drab compared to these countries, especially when St Patrick was OUR saint.

However, it became a moot point as I lost interest in the St Patrick’s Day parades to such an extent that when I joined the workforce, I usually made a point of working every March 17.

I know it’s virtually treason, but I did. I fell out of love with St Patrick and I haven’t been to one of his parades since my kids were kids.

So, you see, I’m completely in agreement with Professor John Oxford, the virologist from London who observed that it would actually not be the end of the world if this country’s biggest St Patrick’s Day Parade — Dublin — was cancelled.

It’s just one year, as he pointed out. And, as he also pointed out, the Chinese postponed the Chinese New Year, which is a very big deal indeed. Because, not only would the huge numbers who annually attend the parade make it a very high risk for spreading the virus, the fact that it attracts tourists from all over the world to the capital could also serve to increase the spread of the virus.

And yet by midweek the Taoiseach was still saying the government would not be advising the cancellation of the parade. I don’t get it.

This is the same short-sighted, gombeen mindset that has resulted in the Jack Lynch tunnel being constructed on too small a scale to deal with the massive traffic backlogs that now afflict that part of the city.

It’s the same outlook which left people commuting between Dublin and Cork without adequate motorway services for so long — nothing for miles for families with small children or babies with them who needed a break or a nappy change, or a wee. Despite the fact that there were excellent examples of this in the UK and abroad, there just didn’t seem to be any realisation in Ireland of the screaming need for a string of well-resourced service stations at regular intervals along the motorway, and for years there wasn’t a decent one in sight.

So anyway, here we are, March 17 only a spit of 10 days away, and the capital’s big parade is still going ahead, because, as the Taoiseach said, a lot could happen between now and then.

It could indeed, Leo — and already has. By the second half of the week we had several more cases of Covid-19.

How irresponsible are we going to look as a nation if Covid-19 goes utterly rampant and the parades go ahead?

The Cork parade involves more than 3,000 participants alone, while the Dublin parade attracts more than half a million people very year and participants from all over the world — participants who are already gearing up to come here.

Is this all going to go ahead while the likes of Stormzy, Avril Lavigne, Mariah Carey, and BTS are cancelling concerts?

There are widespread cinema closures across China, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, and South Korea, and the release of the latest James Bond film has been pushed back seven or eight months — and then there’s the decision by Paramount to halt filming on Mission Impossible 7 and send the production crew home.

So yes, are we to continue on with the parades, even when big international book fairs like the Livre Paris and the London Book Fair have been cancelled?

When even the French have banned kissing, for God’s sake, and the more distant Anglo-Saxon-style handshake has got the old PFO as well?

But right up to the middle of the week, the Irish government was still not advising the cancellation of the St Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin.

“Why?” somebody asked me.

“Surely they’ll need to give all those bands advance notice?”

Well, maybe it’s just stupidity, gombeenism or plain short-sightedness. Maybe it’s canny lobbying from the business sector, because after all, there’s moolah to be made — last year more than 100,000 foreign visitors joined the home crowd to enjoy the event.

And, aside from Dublin, if other events outside the Pale also go ahead, hundreds of thousands more parade-goers will turn out for annual events across the country.

This is quite interesting in the context of the recent warning by a guy called Christian Lindmeier, who is a spokesman for the World Health Organization.

Lindmeier advised staying at least three feet back from a sick person if you don’t want to be infected by Covid-19.

It is transmitted through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

What are your chances of staying three feet away from everyone else in the cram and the crush of the crowds watching the Dublin or Cork parade?

Listen, are we mad?

I’ll tell you this much. I for one won’t be breaking the habit of decades and rushing off to see the parade this year.

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