More than 500,000 celebrate St. Patrick's Day parade through chilly Dublin

More than 500,000 Dubliners and visitors cheered the capital's St. Patrick's Day parade Friday, a massive event featuring face-painted troops of children, American high school bands, floats of castles, snakes and dragons and a major security effort to deter drunken violence afterward.

About 1,000 police were deployed to deal with alcohol-fueled trouble after the parade finished its two-mile (three-kilometer) route down the city's major boulevard, O'Connell Street, and across the River Liffey to St. Patrick's Cathedral. A police commander monitored street conditions from a central bank of closed-circuit surveillance cameras.

But spectators and marchers alike said their main concern was braving a bitterly cold March day. And as darkness fell, the drunken mayhem that Dublin suffered last year failed to materialize again, partly because of the exceptionally chilly weather.

The Garda Siochana, Ireland's national police force, said its officers were making dozens of arrests Friday night for drunken and disorderly behavior, but stressed the volumes were no larger than on a typical weekend in Dublin.

Meanwhile in Belfast, capital of Northern Ireland, a St. Patrick's Day parade and concert billed as "Snake, Rattle 'n' Roll" also passed off without any sectarian trouble.

Reflecting the province's tension between British Protestants and Irish Catholics, Belfast did not even have a St. Patrick's Day parade until 1998 because of Protestant hostility to the display of Irish national symbols. For the first time Friday, Belfast City Council sponsored and helped organize the celebrations, which previously had been run by Catholic hard-liners.

A key condition of the Belfast council's support required marchers to observe a ban on waving Irish flags. Instead, shamrock flags designed to be neutral were handed out to the mostly Catholic crowd, some of whom bought Irish flags from a street vendor instead, reports AP.

According to Indianapolis Star, hhe St. Patrick Day parade Downtown had some serious competition today. A couple of blocks east of the parade route, "Sesame Street Live" had a performance at the Murat Theatre, where some of the traffic to get into the parking lot looked as intense as the traffic to get to the parade staging area. However, there was a healthy crowd lining Downtown streets when the parade started this morning, and many of the spectators were children of the age you would have expected to see at "Sesame Street Live."

The parade audience showed so much enthusiasm that the parade's announcer had to constantly ask the crowd to stay back on the street curbs.

It was a hard job to sell the audience on the idea, because part of the attraction is the free stuff handed to spectators. At he beginning of the parade, there was a competition for free headgear that brought to mind the controversy over what type of hat should be worn by the forthcoming consolidated metropolitan police department for all of Marion County.


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