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.
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.'