17 March 2012


It's a flying boat. On Dame Street. For Patrick's Day. Of course it is.
St Patrick's Day Parade, Dublin, Saturday 17th March
I have (to the best of my knowledge) never been in to the St Patrick's Day parade before, but I remember watching it as a kid on TV, and then seeing the odd clip of it on the news in subsequent years. Today, however, was my first intentional trip into the city centre on Paddy's Day and as far as I can see the parade is mainly run for the benefit of a) Carroll's Gift shops and other purveyors of oversized novelty green hats made in China by prison slave labour and b) the drunken thirteen-year old girls who wear them, topping off what would otherwise be an outfit a forty-year old drag queen would be proud of.

Well far be it from me to be Mr Grumpy on this most holy of holy days, but if I had come all the way to Dublin to see the parade, right about now I would be somewhat disappointed.

Unfortunately for him he needs to get past Leo Burdocks before the parade ends.
St Patrick's Day Parade, Dublin, Saturday 17th March
The parade itself was, I have to say, a little bit of a let-down. There were some pretty great floats put together by the City Fusion and Brighter Future groups and a lot of enthusiastic kids and volunteers working together to make it all happen, and as usual there were a good few high school marching bands from the US, but these seemed fewer in number than in previous years. In fact the whole parade seemed much smaller than normal (well, there is a recession on, you know) and unless you were standing right at the barricades the atmosphere was a bit flaccid.

The fact that so much was happening at street level, rather than on raised floats, meant that if you weren't in the first row you were going to miss at least 50% of everything that went by, something you don't realise when you see it on television. The parade seemed to take a good while to get down to Dame Street, then about halfway through it sped up significantly, meaning that floats and performers were literally sprinting by at the end, trying to make it up to St Patrick's Cathedral before they all turned into a pumpkin or the Paddy's Day gourd equivalent, a turnip perhaps?

Yes. Yes, it is. No, I don't know why either.
St Patrick's Day Parade, Dublin, Saturday 17th March
The theme of the parade was Dublin City of Science 2012, which explained the quasi-Steampunk flying Jules Verne ships, mechanical fish, dragons and, um, a giant rhino sitting in a wheelchair.

Watching these all go by on Dame Street I couldn't help but compare it all to The Spectacle of Hope and Defiance and their parade back in December, produced on a fraction of the budget with just as amazing results, made all the better by the stinging social message at its heart. The kids dancing in December were highlighting the damage done to their communities, not being callously used by the Government to paper over the cracks as they try desperately to pimp the tattered remains of our nation out not just to the highest bidder, but to any bidder.

Would that we all could fly away from these shores on the back of a mythical beast, never to return.
Oh wait, 1,000 of us do every single week. Oops.
St Patrick's Day Parade, Dublin, Saturday 17th March
As the gardaí spent the afternoon separating vomiting youth from their nagins of vodka I'm sure Johnny Giles and Leo Varadkar would have been proud of this vision of Irishness being broadcast the world, much more patriotic than the sight of those damn communists and hippies with all their protesting and what-not. Just to make sure that no one upset the I-Can't-Believe-It's-Not-Arthur's-Day festivities the gardaí made two sweeps of Dame Street, one late last night to arrest and pepper-spray an activist or two and a second at 8am this morning to confiscate any signs that remaining protesters might have had. Folks who tried to bring signs with them along to Dame Street this afternoon were stopped and physically separated from their handiwork, perhaps if they had written their slogan across the foam "Póg ma thoin" faux-buttocks that many revelers were sporting they might have gotten away with it.

Apparently the right to peaceful protest only exists as long as it doesn't interfere with the bacchanalic antics of teenagers and the foreign media crews that want to film them.

Still, a handful of activists did stage a symbolic protest at the gates of the Central Bank, rather more dignified than you might have expected, and best of all for Leo no tourists were inconvenienced in the process.

Green jerseys for everyone, huzzah!

In his Confessio, St Patrick wrote: "let anyone laugh and taunt if he so wishes. I am not keeping silent, nor am I hiding the signs and wonders that were shown to me."

Protesting against social injustice isn't just our right as Irish Men and Women, it is our duty.

Resist. It's as simple as that.
#OccupyDameStreet, Dublin, Saturday 17th March

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