Sunday, March 19, 2006

Tallaght's St Patrick's Day Parade 2006

The over-riding sensation of the 2006 Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in Tallaght was, unfortunately, the cold weather. Even today, more than 24 hours after I got home from the Village, I am only just beginning to warm up again. However, it did nothing to discourage cheerful participation in the parade and while the number of spectators might have been lessened, some thousands of local people turned out to line the route.

Organised this time by a committee headed by Roderick Smyth, the parade had been absent from the town’s streets for the past two years and a special appeal was made for businesses and local groups to join the 2006 event.

Beginning at the National Basketball arena around 3.30pm, the parade featured members of the Dublin City Fire Brigade, the Civil Defence, and several local community, sporting groups and businesses. The event was presided over by Grand Marshal, Des Garry, also known as the Tallaght Person of the Year 2006, as well as South Dublin County Deputy Mayor, Karen Warren. Other local dignitaries invited to view the event included T.D. Charlie O’Connor, Senator Brian Hayes, and representatives of the Garda Siochána.

In blustering sleet showers, and accompanied by blaring sirens of the Dublin Fire Brigade, the vanguard of the parade entered Tallaght Village around 3.45pm to the cheers of around 3,000 onlookers who lined the streets from the Greenhills Road junction to the gates of the Institute of Technology.

First of the sporting groups to process through the Village were members of the Belgard Athletic club, dressed in football gear and oversized festive leprechaun hats and carrying a banner in their blue and white colours. They were followed closely by representatives of the Glenview Day Care Centre, accompanied by the centre’s minibus, the original of which was burned out by thieves in the summer of 2005, but which was replaced by a charitable donation by local business, Control Aer, in December of that year. Several clients of the Centre, which caters for elderly citizens of the area, were aboard waving cheerily at the gathered spectators.

Paddy Dracula Finlay put in an appearance, causing much mirth on the reviewing stand as he gave Karen Warren’s neck a professional inspection. He was scared away by the sirens of the Dublin Fire Brigade, whose convoy of vehicles carrying fire crew and waving children included several types of tenders, rescue and emergency response vehicles. Members of the Civil Defence were followed by the impressive Goldwing Club, bedecked in green white and orange, and riding the powerful motorcycles after which the club is named.

Master of ceremonies, Roderick Smyth, battled bravely against the elements to deliver a running commentary on the various entrants but was hampered by an inadequate sound system, the gusting wind and the sheer number of onlookers straining to hear.

The first display of the day came from the young participants of Old Bawn Gymnastics. Dressed smartly in light blue and dark blue tracksuits, they set up apparatus and mats and gave an admirable demonstration of leaping and somersaulting on Main Street. The cars of Tallaght Ford and the old Saint Patrick himself preceded St Aengus Youth Club, from Balrothery, who took an environmental theme of the “Three Ts”, namely: “Bin there, Dun that, Clean Tallaght”.

Irish dance was represented by Scoil Rince Ní Aogain and by the Mona Bolton School of Irish Dancing, respectively. The girls and boys danced in worsening conditions and despite the biting cold displayed their skills with great determination and courage, especially the young girls who were dressed in intricately-decorated Irish dancing costumes which offered no apparent protection against the chill.

Local Radio Station, Tallaght 99FM, was broadcast over the shaky amplifier system for a time and the parade also featured vehicles from the Q102 and the 98FM commercial Dublin radio stations. The 98FM “Thunderbus” mobile studio passed through and was a very impressive sight.

The Saint Aengus Environment Group headed a convoy of road-sweeping vehicles from McCarthy Sweeper Hire Ltd bedecked with bunting and inflatable leprechauns.

The only marching band of the day, the Tallaght Youth Band, the Marching Vikings, gave a very confident, if brief performance at the reviewing stand. The band was founded in 1977 by Fr. Len Perrem, assisted by Paddy McNally and was originally known as the Priory Youth Band. It was accompanied at the 2006 parade by a section of its flag wavers and majorettes and had just returned from performing in the London St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Hard on the heels of the band came a group bearing the banner of “Integration of African Children in Ireland” who, dressed in traditional African costume, sang in front of the spectators and reviewing stand. They were followed by a contingent from the Shamrock Rovers 2006 club. Behind these were members of St. Mark’s Taekwon-Do School. The older adult members gave a display of martial arts exercises and demonstrated the ability to break wooden boards with their bare hands and feet.

Butchers from the Meat Factory outlet passed by and handed out leaflets, followed by Securazone Security. The crowd was also impressed by the Absolute Limos vehicles, which, despite being only two in number, seemed to go on forever!

Members of the Dublin Auxiliary Fire Service unrolled hoses from their fire engine and startled members of the crowd who thought they were in for a wetting. In the event, the darkening skies were now beginning to thin the spectators as the last groups in the parade made their way up Main Street.

Just before the final participants from a new leisure and fitness center brought up the rear of the parade, the only true float of the day appeared under the banner of “Transformation Tallaght”. Its message read: “What was St Patrick’s Message?”

And on that fitting note, the Tallaght parade concluded for 2006.

In my opinion, a great success, the parade none-the-less suffered from the appalling weather conditions, but this did not appear to lessen the enthusiasm of local people for a parade of their own. Hopefully, problems with the sound system, though a minor inconvenience in such conditions, might be eradicated by next year. It might also be a good idea for some street entertainers to occupy the hundreds of bored children and young teens that congregated as delays, inevitable on such occasions, set in near the advertised start time. A few sweeties to keep everyone’s spirits up would also be welcome.

I noticed on the way to the Tallaght parade that groups of participants from the Dublin event were making their way home in costume from buses and coaches to the outer estates. Maybe next time it might be possible to persuade these groups to consider entering their local parade as well as the National.

The shorter parade route doubtless helped to make the event more enjoyable for all concerned and probably saved some of the participants from hypothermia. It also concentrated the number of spectators, especially in Tallaght Village, the natural home of the Tallaght parade.

A very big congratulations to the organizing committee and a heartfelt thank you to everyone who braved the day and participated in the parade, making it a true community event. Let’s hope the success will spur more people to take a renewed interest in 2007.

Did I mention it was cold?

Willie Walsh
Dublin South-West Forum
18th March 2006

Dublin Fire Brigade
Dublin South-West Forum
St Marks Tae-Kwon-Do
Tallaght 99 FM
Tallaght Youth Band, The Marching Vikings
Integration of African Children in Ireland (site under construction)
Photos from the Tallaght St Patrick’s Day Parade

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