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File photo. St Patrick's Day in Dublin in 2018. Leah Farrell/

St Patrick's Day parades may be cancelled over Covid-19, but they're 'going virtual' for the occasion

A campaign online is encouraging those left disappointed by the cancelled parades to still share their stories and images online this Tuesday.

EVEN THOUGH ST Patrick’s Day events up and down the country are called off this year, that doesn’t mean we can’t still celebrate it. 

From the biggest parade in the capital to the smallest town parade, they consistently bring in the crowds and are a focus for children especially. 

While recognising the real risk to public health for these large gatherings amidst the Covid-19 outbreak, for the people involved – local community groups who would have spent months preparing for to take part in the parade – it comes as a bitter disappointment. 

The last time the Dublin parade was cancelled, Ireland was in the midst of the Foot and Mouth crisis. On that occasion, the parade went ahead that May. 

However, with schools, colleges and public facilities closed until 29 March, we don’t yet know if such an alternative St Patrick’s Day celebrations could be held later in the year.

To help make sure children (and adults) don’t miss out on the festivities, Twitter users have been encouraging each other to have a “virtual parade” online on Tuesday 17 March to enjoy the day as best they can.

The movement appears to have originated from a few different sources almost simultaneously.

One of those was Limerick native Mike McLoughlin who took to Twitter last Monday with the message: “Guys I was thinking, there must be kids (and adults) up and down the country who were all set for St Patrick’s day parades and have put lots of work into their floats and costumes…how about a virtual parade on here? One hashtag, share the pics and vids here on the 17th?”

McLoughlin told that the idea occurred to him based on the community work he had done in the past.

“It’s all about organising floats for the parade and the different acts,” he said. “They’d have put in so much time and effort over the year to get ready for this.”

He said he got to thinking about what could still be done, given his own daughters had also been looking forward to the parade.

Other accounts, such as Virtual Paddy’s Day 2020, had similar ideas.

RTÉ has got in on the act too, as it also encourages baton twirlers, dancers and tractor drivers to share their costumes and floats on social media.

While still acknowledging that people shouldn’t gather in large groups – and that they should take all necessary precautions – they can still get involved on St Patrick’s Day with the hope that the #virtualparade and #twitterparade are full of that kind of content from all over Ireland and beyond.

On the day, if you click those hashtags, they should offer up images, videos and stories of the floats prepared by people who never got the chance to take part in this year’s cancelled parades.

“It’ll hopefully raise awareness of what we can do when staying indoors, rather than flouting what we’re being told about it,” McLoughlin said.

He added that being able to share it on social media can actually enable the groups behind the floats and shows to tell the story of how it came together – something you wouldn’t see if it was just passing you as a spectator on the day. 

Groups will also have the chance to share images and videos of how their ideas came together over the last few weeks and months.

The idea has gained support on Twitter and, an appearance on Ray D’Arcy’s radio show on RTÉ later, McLoughlin believes the momentum is building ahead of Tuesday.

“When the cabin fever sets in, it’ll be something on the day that people can really have fun with,” he said. “It’s a chance for us all to demonstrate our resilience. But we’re also a nation of piss takers really. So why not try our best to have fun too.”

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