Dearth of Gaelic Culture in Galway's St. Patrick's Day Parade

Copy of my letter that was printed in the Galway Independent newspaper

This year's St Patrick's Day Parade was a great success at many different levels. The welcome return of the school bands, the pageantry, the huge friendly crowds and, of course, the fine weather made for an enjoyable afternoon.

So well done to the organisers!
But there was a surprising dearth of traditional Irish music, dance and drama in the event that was commented on by locals and tourists alike. Visitors were treated to a wonderful eclectic mix of African singers, Chinese dancers, Scottish pipers, American cops, Indian fashion, Hare Krishna chants and smiling flag wavers from new Christian groups that reached a finale in a fine display of Breton folk music in front of the official review stand.

But, in a Galway city/county that prides itself on being the cultural capital of Ireland, that is promoted as the custodian of so many aspects of Gaelic culture and is the birthplace of the sean-nos dancing Mulkerrin Brothers who won the 'All-Ireland Talent Competition' only two days previously, there is something seriously wrong when Gaelic culture finds so little expression in our annual national parade.

Promoting our membership of the 'Global Village' and the ethnic traditions of recent arrivals from other lands should, of course, be encouraged, commended and continued. But it would be wrong in the process to sideline a Gaelic culture that has for millennia been that of the majority of the Irish people.

The world has an appetite for traditional Irish Celtic music, drama and dance that has only increased over the last few decades. We in Galway should not ignore this and disappoint those who travel from distant parts to take part in what they expect to be a celebration of Ireland’s heritageHaving a St Patrick's Day Parade without this cultural input is akin to the Rio de Janeiro Carnival without its Samba Schools. For centuries the parade was nurtured by our Irish diaspora in order to keep the national identity alive in a time when the indigenous population was threatened by colonisation, war, oppression, famine and poverty. But participation from other ethnic groups with proud heritages is nothing new.

For instance, many Indians marched in the 1920 New York Parade that was reviewed by Eamon DeValera, some carrying large banners emblazoned with messages such as '315,000,000 of India with Ireland to the Last' and 'President De Valera's Message to India: Our cause is a common cause.'

I have sent a letter on this issue to the Mayor and Manager of Galway City. I also requested them to consider henceforth sending invitations to representatives of local schools, community and voluntary groups to fill the many empty seats noticeable in this year’s Review Stand as well as to lobby for the closure of the off-licences on 17 March. The public displays of urination, vomiting and verbal harassment, particularly from under-age drinkers on our streets and in our parks after the parade last Tuesday, was a frightening experience for families and others endeavouring to enjoy our national holiday.

13 comments:

Peg Noone said...

I fully agree re lack of inclusion of Irish culture items in the parade Brendan. Well done on writing to local authority re same. I also feel that it is a pity that Macnas do not participate now. Peg

Frances Blake's Diary said...

I thoroughly agree with your comments re the dearth of "Irish Culture" at the recent parade.We must strive to right this wrong

Retired Teachers' Association Galway said...

What a wonderful,spectacular,colourful occassion - one that we are all proud of. How can we prevent the disgraceful conduct of a few who spoil such a joyous occasion?
Mary Kyne

Mary Joyce-Glynn said...

Wonderful photographs.You have portrayed our multicultural society very well.

Fidelma R. McDonnell's Diary said...

Very interesting article. I agree with the sentiments.

Mary Keaveney said...

Very good article.I agree with your observations particularly with the closing of off licences on the day

Anne Conway said...

What a great display of photographs!They really enhance the presentation so much.

Siobhan McMurray said...

Also a lack of what Patrick did for us when he brought Christianity to Ireland.

nancycasey said...

Great pictures Brendan.It is nice to see the school bands back again.It is a great help to our tourist industry.

Phyllis Naughton said...

I thoroughly agree with all you have stated in your article Brendan.T he pictures are brilliant.

P. J.Callanan said...

To plagiarise from the Playboy riots - Galway "you have disgraced yourselves again"

tierney said...

Your comments are interesting.

Katie Shackleton said...

I think this years parade was a fantastic success and to those who lament its lack of Irish Culture I put the following to you; If anything this years inclusive parade has captured the very essence of what makes Galway great. It is open-minded and friendly and offers a platform to all who wish to join in with the 'craic' - and afterall, what is more Irish than such an open-hearted welcome? I believe that that is what should, and will be recognised by locals and tourists alike.