Thursday, June 13, 2024

The hardy few who facilitated our St Patrick’s Day parades shouldn’t have to get out the begging bowls

It’s an urban legend that it always rains on St Patrick’s Day in Ireland; it doesn’t, it just seems like that.

And so it was on Friday last that when curtains and blinds were opened on our greenest of days, the skies opened too. We can all be grateful that the rain didn’t last.

It was Gordon Lightfoot who sang and eugolised the ‘Early Morning Rain’ but it really isn’t welcome on St Patrick’s Day.

From around Westmeath, wherever there were parades held, there has been reports of a great day with great crowds. Today’s St Patrick’s Day parades are inventive and colourful; in Mullingar, the ‘green theme’ adopted by its organisers came to pass.

For those of us who have been around the block, today’s parades are light years ahead of what we grew up with in the 1960s and 1970s. Back then, the parades were dominated by commercial interests who did nothing more than wash a truck, enter it in their local parade, and staff it with people who flung lollipops like Exocet missiles into the crowd.

Heaven help the surprised as orange and lemon pops flew past them at an ungracious speed, and many’s the unwary person it was who stopped one with their forehead.
These days, St Patrick’s Day parades are driven by people of all ages, but especially the young, with bands and local groups deservedly getting their chance to walk down the streets of their neighbourhood and let us all know who they are.

All of the St Patrick’s Day parades held on Friday last ­– including those in Westmeath – had at least two things in common. Firstly, they were organised by small groups of dedicated people who put the interests of their community ahead of themselves; and secondly, they came at a financial cost that the organisers had to meet.

The wonderful Fleadh held in Mullingar last August was similar – a great committee and at great cost.

‘We suspect that these volunteers were left chasing financial support and some will be left with bills because of money not coming in…’

And while the parades and the celebration of all things to do with our national saint, there has to be a gripe, but it’s a justifiable one: the lack of financial support the organising committees received.

Given the amount of work these people have to do to get their parade up and running, it’s unfair that we, the appreciative audience, should expect them to find even more time to go around with a community ‘begging bowl’ and try to get donations to fund their parades.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Local businesses which can see beyond the end of their own noses should realise that a great parade means another one next year, it means more people visiting their towns, it means more commercial opportunities down the line, it means local business.

We wonder how many of the organising committees of this county’s St Patrick’s Day parades were top heavy with cash because of the support from local businesses? Surely the answer to that is… ‘none’.

Rather, we suspect that these volunteers were left chasing financial support and some will be left with bills because of money not coming in to support great community intiatives.

As always in Ireland, we leave the hard work to a hardy few and too many of our businesses simply will not give financial support to underwrite wonderful events, such as local parades.

So we say a big ‘thank you’ to the organisers of the parades which lit up Westmeath last week. And to those who can pay for them, who can help, but simply won’t…well, don’t moan about the lack of local support your business receives.

What goes around, comes around.

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