A second St Patrick’s Day parade – which will be community led – will take place in Armagh on Sunday, March 17.
The annual council-funded parade will take place on the Saturday, March 16, while the second is being fronted by the West Armagh Community Consortium (WAC).
The consortium is working in conjunction with a wide range of civic, business and community interests, and is seeking to ensure that the Saint’s feast day is “suitably and properly celebrated in traditional style in Ireland’s ancient ecclesiastical capital and home to St Patrick himself”.
Speaking at the launch of the initiative, Stephen Fields, Community Development Manager for the WAC described it as a “fantastic opportunity for the people of Armagh and beyond to come out on Sunday 17th March to mark the occasion in true Armagh style and to be part of the global celebration of St Patrick on that date”.
He added: “There has been a remarkable sense of frustration in the local community, and from further afield, at the plausibility of there being no parade in Armagh on 17th March, and we intend to make sure that is not the case and to do so in style.”
Nationalist councillors on the ABC Council have given the proposed parade their support.
Councillor Garath Keating, speaking on behalf of Sinn Féin, described the project as “a hugely important and community owned initiative.”
“I am delighted at the prospect of Armagh people now having an opportunity to come together on the 17th March to show the world what St Patrick means to them and to this City,” said councillor Keating.
“This is a sacred day in the calendar for people across the world, particularly so here in Ireland, to celebrate St Patrick.”
Speaking on behalf of the SDLP, councillor Thomas O’Hanlon welcomed the initiative by the West Armagh Consortium saying: “The initiative to host a Community procession on Sunday 17th March is a welcome initiative.”
He continued: “This event is planned to complement the existing events organised throughout the Home of St Patrick Festival.
“We look forward to engaging with the community, sporting and cultural groups in Armagh and beyond in helping bring forward a procession on Sunday 17th March.
“Armagh is the home of Saint Patrick and I hope in the coming days people can unite around the event planned by the Consortium and look forward to the meeting on Wednesday night.”
Acknowledging the array of events already organised as part of the build up to St Patrick’s Day, the organisers are very keen to point out that this event is in no way intended to be in competition with those ventures, but rather as a community initiative to complement and supplement the existing line-up of festival activities.
Mr Fields added: “We felt as a community it was important to have continuity with the occasion being marked here locally on the day.
“Whilst we understand the reasoning of those organising the procession on Saturday 16th March, and wish that event every success, we have seen since that date was announced that there is a huge appetite here locally for people who also wish to mark the traditional date of the festivities.
“As such therefore, we are calling on all groups, organisations and interested parties wishing to celebrate the life and legacy of St Patrick here in County Armagh on Sunday 17th March, to join with us in making this event a truly amazing, inclusive, multicultural, family and community orientated spectacle.”
There will be a public meeting to commence co-ordination of the event at the Cathedral Road Complex next Wednesday evening February 13 at 7.30pm.
All members of the public along with representatives of any organisations wishing to register interest in the event are cordially invited to the meeting.
With time in short supply we are appealing to as many people as possible to help out and take ownership of this historic event in our historic City.
Interest can also be registered by email to the following address: Armagh.StPatrick@gmail.com