18 March 2005

Daily Ireland

Carnival of craic

Belfast city centre was transformed into a carnival of craic yesterday as thousands took to the streets to celebrate St Patrick’s Day.
Floats and bands from all parts of the city led the carnival to City Hall, where a huge crowd had gathered to join in the fun.
Foreign tourists mingled with face-painted locals as music blasted out from loudspeakers, and performers took to the stage.
The organisers said it had been one of the best-attended St Patrick’s Day parades, despite Belfast City Council refusing funding for the eighth year in a row.
“People have came out in their thousands and have really bought into the idea of fun, which is what it is all about,” said festival organiser Conor Maskey.
“The atmosphere has been brilliant and we have shown that St Patrick’s Day in Belfast really is a day for all the community.
“We are delighted with the turnout and how the day went. This carnival is the result of a lot of hard work put in by a lot of people over the past few months. It is events like this that can make Belfast proud.”
Former Boyzone singer Keith Duffy was the star guest chosen to compere the day’s fun. The Dublin-born singer proved a hit with the revellers.
The streets around City Hall were sealed off to traffic as stallholders set up along the length of Royal Avenue.
Bars in the side streets thronged with drinkers as traditional musicians took to the stage to entertain the crowds.
Leaflets calling for St Patrick’s Day to be made an official holiday in the North of Ireland and in Britain were handed out.
Campaigners have also organised a web petition and they urged the public to sign it.
Top Irish bands such as Snow Patrol have already lent their support to the cause.
In Downpatrick in Co Down, the week-long celebrations culminated in a parade through the town centre.
Spectators thronged the streets as the parade wound its way through the crowds with a huge “rock ’n’ roll rainbow” as the central banner.
A cavalcade of vintage cars entertained the revellers earlier in the day.
The Downpatrick festival ended last night with a concert in aid of the tsunami appeal.

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