Among those on duty with the Civil Defence at the last St Patrick's Day parade in Mullingar, 2017, were, from left, Margaret McDonald, Cassie Hanlon, Daithi Dalton, Martin McDonagh, Donal Flynn, John Hopkins, Lisa Conway and Padraic Daly.

Meeting to discuss 2023 St Patrick's Day parade

Ruth Illingworth says the county town of Westmeath should have a parade on St Patrick’s Day, and she has organised a meeting on November 21 next with that ambition in mind.

“We haven’t had a parade since 2017,” said Ruth. “We had a cultural event in 2018 – music in the Market Square which went quite well – but it wasn’t a parade.”

Ruth was part of the organising team for the St Patrick’s Day parade from 2007 to 2018, and was chairperson for some of those years.

The meeting on Monday next, November 21 (8pm in The Greville Arms Hotel) is “to see if we can organise a parade for the town in 2023”, she said.

“I note that Joe Connaire (chair of the Fleadh Executive Committee) said it was a pity that there had been nothing in the town for St Patrick’s Day this year, so hopefully we can bring some kind of event, a parade, a cultural celebration, something, that will mark our national day in the town.

“St Patrick’s Day is a Friday, so it’s going to be a holiday weekend, there will be a lot of people in town for the weekend and it would be nice to showcase all that’s best about Mullingar.”

Ruth was referring to Joe Connaire’s call that Mullingar should use its fleadh experience to give itself a top-class St Patrick’s Day parade. “St Patrick’s Day is a big calendar date in our lives in Ireland and for a town the size of Mullingar, there should be a great parade. I’ll put it this way: when you see the likes of Tyrrellspass and Castlepollard, villages, making a huge effort… I was in Castlepollard last year and it was just amazing, so maybe the fleadh might be a bit of a wake-up call for the people here to do something like that.”

Ruth said: “I definitely agree that the town should have a parade again, particularly given the success that was the Fleadh Cheoil – if we can host half a million people, we can certainly do a St Patrick’s Day Parade.”

Accepting that it takes a lot of work to organise a parade, Ruth is hoping to have the involvement of the fleadh people, the Chamber of Commerce, people who were involved in parades in the past, and other bodies.

“We have the Bachelor Festival, which is running again next year, the arts centre, the sports and social groups, the wider community, the business community – I know they’re under pressure financially, and they’ll be asked to contribute to the fleadh again, and other events, but perhaps they’ll come on board, and not necessarily with financial donations; if we go down the road of having a full parade, it could be entering floats.”