Talking shop addresses green issues for St Patrick’s Day

THE six-day St Patrick’s Day Festival began in Dublin yesterday with what is hoped to be an annual event: a talking shop in Dublin Castle about what it means to be Irish.

Key figures in the arts, society and business came together to Talk Irish and explore the phenomenon of Irish success, how we perceive ourselves and whether we are confident about the future.

Festival chief executive Maria Moynihan said the one-day symposium was a chance to figure out what it was we were celebrating.

Event chairman and St Patrick’s Festival chairman Senator Feargal Quinn said the event, which attracted more than 100 participants, was more about talking than making speeches.

“What we started today is a new tradition so that every year the talking part of being Irish is going to be as big as the singing and dancing,” he said.

Participants included Aer Arann managing director Pádraig Ó Céidigh, who talked about his business success, and musician Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin, who discussed the strength and nature of Ireland’s contribution to the modern world.

Poverty campaigner Sr Stanislaus Kennedy said that as a nation we had done a bad job at looking after ourselves.

Ireland was a wealthy country but those who held the purse strings had not learned to share with those who were less well off.

As part of the festival, green, white and orange bunting will be erected all over Dublin today. Festival organisers are all too aware that, even with the bunting, Dublin will not be looking its best for next Monday’s parade because of the LUAS building works.

That’s why they intend having community groups from Fatima Mansions, supported by Dublin City Council, to help show off the positive effects of regeneration.

There will be an 80% increase in participation in the parade, but the greatest challenge for Ms Moynihan and her team was finding the €2.5m to fund the festival.

The organisers have contributed €1.7m, with the balance made up by sponsors.

“It is a difficult task getting the money together, but we are able to give those who are willing to back us unique and very positive access to very large crowds ,” she said.

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