St Patrick’s Day: President lauds disability campaigner Joanne O’Riordan with standing ovation at Dublin parade

Under glorious blue skies, the St Patrick’s Day parade snaked through Dublin, led by disability campaigner Joanne O’Riordan.

St Patrick’s Day: President lauds disability campaigner Joanne O’Riordan with standing ovation at Dublin parade

The 19-year-old college student from Millstreet, Co Cork, who was the event’s youngest-ever grand marshal, declared that her day had been “absolutely amazing”.

She is one of seven people in the world with total amelia syndrome, a condition that meant she was born without arms or legs. She also has scoliosis — curvature of the spine.

Joanne received a standing ovation from President Michael D Higgins, his wife Sabina, and other dignitaries in the grandstand outside the GPO.

She said that leading the parade was an experience she would never forget, and that she had always wanted to be a role model for anyone wanting to make the best of their lives.

Last August, she received the Junior Chamber international Outstanding Young Person of the Year award.

Joanne, a second-year student of criminology at University College Cork, has also appeared in the television documentary No Limbs, No Limits, directed and produced by her brother Steven.

Among the half a million people on the streets watching the parade yesterday was Dan Haynes from Northampton in England.

He was one of a group of men who had travelled from Britain to spend the best part of a week enjoying the festive atmosphere

“It’s an absolutely fantastic parade,” said Dan. “We are staying in Dublin until Saturday. I have been to Dublin twice and the city always lives up to expectations.”

Gabriel Deturiroz, a computer engineering student from Brazil, was also watching the parade.

“We were standing a bit far back, but what we saw was very good,” said Gabriel.

He and about 80 other students from Brazil are involved in an exchange programme that allows them to study in Galway University for a year.

Marian Davenport, her daughter Rowena, and sister Valerie Robson, had travelled from London and were staying in Drogheda with Valerie’s daughter, Sara Cummings. They were enjoying their week together and the parade was the icing on the cake.

“I am embracing the Irish culture and loving it. I really am so happy to be here,” said Marian.

“It’s great to see everyone in a buoyant mood. It’s just a fleeting visit; we leave on Friday but wish we could stay longer,” said Valerie.

The Lord Mayor of Dublin, Críona Ní Dhálaigh, arrived for the parade in a state coach built in 1791 and now valued at €3m.

The coach, drawn by four black horses, was originally agreed at a price of £600, but eventually cost £2,690. Even in those days, public representatives got their sums wrong.

Two years ago, the festival began a three-year creative theme for the parade: The past, present, and future.

The theme of this year’s parade — Imagine if... — reflected how young people in Ireland visualise the next 100 years.

Spraoi, the Waterford-based street theatre and spectacle company, showed what future housing could look like and had people selling the properties. One man said the prices were very competitive and, anyway, he had always wanted to live under the sea in a cockle shell.

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