Dublin St Patrick's Day parade wows spectators

A giant Irish-knit jumper and the world’s biggest raggy doll were among the spectacular sights and sounds at the annual St Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin.

Around half a million revellers lined the streets of Dublin for the world-famous event.

North of the border, Belfast staged its own carnival and parade through the city centre, with street performers and an open-air music concert.

With an Irish diaspora of 70 million worldwide, major cities around the globe also paid tribute to the nation’s patron saint.

Marching bands and pageants kept thousands on their toes in central Dublin as they marked the year of The Gathering – Ireland’s 12 months of homecoming celebrations.

Floats, performance artists, dancers and acrobats portrayed what it means to be Irish.

A giant door and roaring fireplace symbolised the return of family abroad, while the inflatable woolly jumper was wheeled down the city’s main thoroughfare of O’Connell Street to offer up hugs to all.

A seven metre raggy doll and oversized toys like robots and teddy bears delighted thousands of excited children, with leprechaun hats and painted faces.

Renditions of traditional songs like 'Danny Boy' rang out as brass, pipe and drum bands proceeded through the centre of the city, and even from space as Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded his own rendition from orbit.

Twelve bands travelled from the US to take art in the Dublin parade, including the Fire Department of the City of New York, which flew in early this morning.

They joined 40 members from the French Navy who paraded through the streets, along with the nation’s own Garda Band and the National Ambulance Service of Ireland’s pipe and drum band.

Other St Patrick’s Day parades were held across the island – including in Cork and Limerick, and Downpatrick and Derry in the north.

Dublin Airport said it expected around 225,000 passengers to pass through its gates over the holiday weekend – an increase of 6% from the same time last year.

Meanwhile, Fáilte Ireland reported a hike in accommodation bookings, with the majority of Dublin’s most popular hotels fully booked.

Many of them reported a 10% year-on-year hike in business.

Shaun Quinn, Fáilte Ireland chief executive, said: “This St Patrick’s Day bounce bodes well for our expectations for The Gathering this year and hopefully will be the start of a pattern this season.

“With an enhanced St Patrick’s festival, this was our biggest March tourism push to date and the performance of hotels in the city really confirms that events do drive business in Dublin.”

Hundreds of thousands of people globally are joining in the St Patrick’s Day festivities, with some of the world’s most famous sights lit up green to mark the occasion.

The Pyramids of Egypt and Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer statue will be bathed in emerald throughout the day.

Other monuments and natural wonders to go green include the Sydney Opera House, Niagara Falls, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Burj al Arab in Dubai, Table Mountain in South Africa, New York’s Empire State Building and Berlin’s TV Tower.

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