Revellers brave the `Mini Beast' to celebrate St Patrick in towns and cities around Ireland
THOUSANDS of revellers wrapped up warm against the mini `Beast from the East' to celebrate St Patrick's Day in Belfast where a 20-ft paper mache snake kicked off celebrations.
Despite the low temperatures, those lining the route were decked out in shamrock sunglasses and sparkling bow ties as huge, colourful displays, featuring St Patrick, legendary footballer George Best, the Titanic and the famous Harland & Wolff yellow cranes, passed through the city centre.
The crowds, including many tourists, were kept entertained with an array of colourful floats, dancers, musicians and street performers.
Following the high energy `Global Belfast' parade, a concert took place at Custom House Square where former JLS star, Aston Merrygold was headliner. Also on the bill was modern Irish dancing group Slide Step and Irish Festival Dancing School Tír Na n-Óg.
Belfast Lord Mayor Nuala McAllister, who took part in the parade with her family, praised all those who had made the event happen.
"A fantastic day celebrating #StPatricksDay Belfast, great crowds, with so much effort from the carnival team! Thanks to @BeatCarnival & all the parade teams for embracing the positive #GlobalBelfast open, welcoming & inclusive vibe!" she tweeted.
In Derry, 20,000 spectators wrapped up against the elements to watch a colourful cascade of characters spill down Shipquay Street and weave their way through the city centre. The around 600 performers who took part in the parade hailed from community groups, schools and sports clubs from around the district.
In Strabane, around 5,000 people lined the route to watch a further 600 carnival parade participants put on a fantastic display through the town centre.
Derry and Strabane mayor, Maolíosa McHugh said: "St Patrick’s is always one of our most popular days out, but this year’s extended programme in both Derry and Strabane really added to the occasion.
"It was fantastic to see so many people out to support their community organisations who put on a fantastic display in both Derry and Strabane," he said.
"I think that’s what makes our events so special, the sense of ownership from the community, and the fact that so many local people are involved in making them happen".
In Downpatrick, the burial place of St Patrick, crowds who gathered for a colourful parade were greeted by a huge saint, who had taken up residence sitting in St Patrick's Square.
Families then enjoyed a cross-community parade, which included a cavalcade of floats, bands and performances by community groups
In Dublin, Star Wars actor Mark Hamill was the inaugural International Guest of Honour at this year's St Patrick's Festival.
Organisers said around 450,000 people had made their way to the city centre to watch the event however, it is thought numbers were down because of both the cold temperatures and the Ireland v England rugby match.
I met Ireland's President Michael Higgins as guest of "honour" at Dublin's epic #StPatricksDay2018 Parade, had a thrilling, unforgettable experience AND avoided creating an international incident. All things considered, a Win-Win.— Mark Hamill (@HamillHimself) March 18, 2018
Thank You ! #Gr8ful pic.twitter.com/rIxJGCSQIu
n's epic #StPatricksDay2018 Parade, had a thrilling, unforgettable experience AND avoided creating an international incident. All things considered, a Win-Win.Thank You. #Gr8ful
Dubliner and Game of Thrones star, Liam Cunningham was Grand Marshall of the parade, which this year had the theme Home Is Where the Heart Is. More than 2,000 band members from far and wide delivering dazzling rhythms and uplifting music that reverberated through the city's streets.
Meanwhile, in Limerick, the Gardaí said around 750,000 people had enjoyed Saturday's festivities, which had seen Grand Marshal Marion Fossett, the Queen of Ireland’s National Circus, lead out the parade, which included around 4,000 participants.
The theme of the parade was Circus and around 100 community groups and sports clubs brought the theme to life, along with some of Ireland’s best street theatre companies.
Marian Hurley, Deputy Mayor of Limerick, described the parade as "an amazing spectacle".
"It’s 250th anniversary of the Circus and 130 years of Fossett’s Circus," she said.
"It was just lovely, every group seemed to carry that theme right throughout the parade. It was very colourful and the theme brought that right throughout the parade".