Irish eyes were smiling across the capital

By Jack Foley

IRISH eyes were most definitely smiling across London on St Patrick's Day (March 17) when a procession of 7,000 marched from Westminster to Trafalgar Square to join some typically jovial celebrations with 20,000 revellers on Sunday.

The first officially sponsored event to celebrate Ireland's patron saint was described as a huge success by its organisers, all of whom seemed to be having tremendous fun amid the festivities.

Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern was among the first to welcome the parade to London (even though he remained in Dublin!) which, together with floats and costumes, moved from Westminster Cathedral through Whitehall and into Trafalgar Square where a wide variety of performers, including the reformed Dubliners, the Wexford Male Voice Choir, Mary Coughlan, dancers Celtic Feet and poet Tom Paulin performed.

Daithi O'Ceallaigh, Irish Ambassador to London, and Seumas Brennan, Minister of State to the Taoiseach, were among those who took part in the parade, as did Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, Sinn Féin chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin and SDLP chairman Eammon O'Neill.

Mayor Ken, who was instrumental in spearheading the £10,000 celebrations, described the success of the event as 'amazing' before declaring that it reflected the 'huge progress made in Ulster's peace process', while Prime Minister Tony Blair said it gave him 'great pleasure' to welcome the festival as 'an opportunity for a community to celebrate their rich heritage'.

Whether the success of the event will manage to deflect criticism away from Mr Livingstone over his refusal to recognise St George's Day, however, remains to be seen. The Mayor has won few fans for his scathing and dismissive remarks about England's own patron saint.

Trafalgar Square a sea of green; except for the fountains...

Jolly Irish revellers helped to turn much of Trafalgar Square into a sea of green, thanks to thousands of banners, hats, flags and balloons during the afternoon festivities - but an attempt to emulate Chicago celebrations by turning the area's water features green failed.

There were plans to dye Trafalgar Square's fountains green to mark the event but, according to a spokesman for the Irish Post, the idea was only a partial success. The trouble being attributed to the cleanliness of the fountains.

Using Chicago's dye, which helps to turn mucky water a vibrant green, organisers were left seeing red when, instead, they were faced with a 'peculiar shade of yellow' because of the cleanliness of the water!