This year, 2016, is an important one in Ireland’s history. It marks the centenary of the Easter 1916 Irish rebellion, which was soon to be followed by Irish independence. A number of important events are being held in Ireland to mark the centenary, and this year’s St Patrick’s Day will also be a very special one for Irish people around the world.
Here in Bucharest things will be no different and I am certain that this year’s parade will be the biggest and best ever, with many parade floats sponsored by both Irish and Romanian companies and organisations. Indeed, I would like to pay tribute to boards and the individual members of the Ireland Romania Network (IRN) and the Romania Ireland Business Association (RIBA), and other volunteers and friends of the Embassy, who have worked together tirelessly to organise, and in many cases who have generously sponsored, this year’s St Patrick’s Days events.
What many people don’t know is that St Patrick was not born in Ireland. It is not even clear where he was born, but it was England, Scotland or Wales. However, one thing that we are fairly sure about is that on 17 March this year, we will mark 1,555 years since he died in Ireland, in the year 461 A.D. His significance for Ireland is that he brought us Christianity and that is why he was chosen as one of our Patron Saints. Another interesting fact is that the first ever St Patrick’s Day Parade was held not in Ireland but in New York in – believe it or not – 1762, by homesick Irish men serving in the British army. Of course, America was still a British colony then, and for a further 14 years. However, the popularity of St Patrick’s Day, and parading, really grew from the second half of the 18th Century, mainly due to the activities of the large Irish communities in such places as the US, UK, Canada and Australia, which wanted to retain strong contacts with Ireland and its culture, both for themselves and for their children.
Over the decades of the 20th Century, St Patrick’s Day grew further in popularity and into the phenomenon that it is today, with large parades and celebrations across the globe. Irish Ministers travel every year to visit with the largest of the Irish communities abroad and celebrate St Patrick’s Day with them. The Irish Government also uses the occasion, understandably, to promote Ireland, including Irish exports, Irish tourism, and Ireland as a destination for international foreign direct investment and a study location for foreign students.
This year in Bucharest we will have a Reception hosted by myself on St Patrick’s Day, Thursday 17 March; an Irish Ball at the Intercontinental Hotel on Friday, a networking event in the Marriott Hotel on Saturday, with friends from the other competitor countries in the Six Nations International Rugby Tournament currently taking place – as well as Ireland, they are England, Scotland, Wales, France and Italy; a huge parade on Sunday departing from Kiseleff Boulevard at 15:00 and proceeding down Calea Victoriei; and a concert in the Old Town that evening, near the BNR in Lipscani.
There will also be a band practice at 12 noon on Saturday, in Herăstrău Park, for a pipe and drum band coming from Ireland, and the Embassy has also supported other events including a promotion of Irish beef by the Marriott Hotel, in the JW Steakhouse, from 10 – 26 March and even a “greening” of the Sheraton Hotel.
The parade on Sunday will be a great spectacle, especially for children, and I really hope that the residents of Bucharest will come out on the day and celebrate St Patrick’s Day with us!