The return of the leprechauns

August 17, 2008

A legion of invisible leprechauns invaded the heart of London last Sunday to join the celebration of all things Irish a day before Ireland paid tribute to St Patrick, its patron saint.

“Leprechauns are magical little creatures who bring good luck when they’re not busy tricking people or guarding the pot of gold,” explained Dublin-born Debbie Hanafrid.

These mythical creatures, a symbol of Ireland, were found aplenty at the St Patrick’s Day festivities around Trafalgar Square as revellers donned green outfits and ginger beards.

The lure of Ireland

The colours of Ireland – green, white and orange – were visible everywhere: painted on faces, strung across the square and in the memorabilia sold at temporary stalls.

The Irish tourist board also set up a stall to attract potential visitors. One officer said that “even if drinks are a great part of why people come to Dublin, there’s much more to Ireland than Guiness.”

There was also talk about Ireland’s “unique literary and historical culture” and references to Irish writers like James Joyce and George Bernard Shaw.

Dance and music

Good food, music and dancing – the hallmark of any fun festival – were enjoyed by all -especially the weekend-long traditional Irish food market in Covent Garden.

A concert by 12 Irish tenors in Trafalgar Square preceded the St Patrick’s Day parade, in which members of London’s Irish community walked alongside representatives of the 32 Irish counties.

First singers including Aslan, Roísín Murphy, Luka Bloom and Ann Scott gave the crowds a taste of Irish music at Trafalgar Square. Later, the Beer and Baccy Ceili Band played Celtic music and the Celtic Masters and the Ceim Oir Dance Company performed traditional Irish dance in Leicester Square.

Irish in London

Peter Hammond, director of the London Irish Centre talked about how the 500,000 Irishmen and women living in the capital have integrated in British society, but have not forgotten their roots.

“It’s difficult to find someone who doesn’t have an Irish link, be it through their neighbour, friends or family,” said Hammond.

Joan Trent, from West Limmerick, added: “Ireland is the land of the thousand welcomes.” She also talked about the country’s “friendliness and warmth”.

Margaret Connolly, who moved from Ireland to London 30 years ago, was quick to point out that being Irish was all about “personality, good humour and community spirit.”

Pipe protest

Not everything was merry at the St Patrick’s Day celebrations. The Irish environmental association Gluaiseacht made its presence felt by carrying a fake pipe to protest against a high-pressure gas pipeline projected in Mayo, in Ireland´s West coast.

The pipeline will connect the Corrib gas field in the Altantic Ocean – owned by multinationals Shell, Statoil and Marathon – with an inland refinery.

As reported by the BBC, the Shell terminal operations manager Mark Carrigey said in 2005 that the pipeline was “completely safe” and had been given “a clean bill of health”.

On its part, Gluiseacht still claims that the infrastructure will destroy the environment in North Mayo and the local community ‘will have their health and safety put at risk’.

The leprechaun

St Patrick’s Day in Ireland

St Patrick’s history

The Irish Food Board

Mayo´s pipeline


One comment

  1. Just as a point of interest and warning to travellers- most people in Ireland HATE the “green outfits and ginger beards” stuff. Recently some eurosceptic MEPS donned leprechaun outfits in the European Parliament in the belief that to do so would show support for the Irish people for voting no to the Lisbon treaty, but the action was seen as patronising and insulting by many people in Ireland.

    London Irish people can obviously be a little out of touch with genuine Irish culture (and some Irish people like to give out fake info to foreigners). So if you visit Ireland- don’t buy those (made in China) leprechaun outfits unless you want to be taken for a drunk British tourist.

    On the pipeline issue, you can find good up to date information on the campaign against Shell and Statoil here: http://www.indymedia.ie/mayo and http://www.sheltosea.com

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