STRONG messages were delivered to central and local Government on two long running local issues that have dominated the headlines for years at last Sunday’s St Patrick’s Day parade in Tullamore.
A clear signal that Tullamore needs an Arts Centre was sent in a colourful entry comprising several different local groups while the State was urged to take Durrow Abbey and monastic site into public ownership by the Durrow High Cross Committee.
The Arts Centre entry, which fittingly took the overall award, was co-ordinated by the recently formed Arts Centre Action group, and featured a host of community groups from Tullamore and its hinterland.
The Durrow High Cross committee entry, including a replica of the world famous cross, called for the termination of the current lease at Durrow Abbey and for no more rave parties to take place at the site.
Meanwhile, a message about the importance of equality for all citizens was delivered by the float from Offaly Travellers Movement while the students of Gaelscoil an Eiscir Riada, another award winning entry, warned spectators to prepare for the future.
The need for the development of a hospice to cover the four Midlands counties was highlighted by the entry from Offaly Hospice.
The ribbon to open the parade was officially cut by the Grand Marshall, veteran business man and long serving town and county councillor, John Flanagan.
Mr Flanagan, who also received the 2017 Offaly Person of the Year award, paid tribute to the organising committee and said he was honoured to be chosen as Grand Marshall.
“I recognise the importance of this parade on our national day,” stressed Mr Flanagan, who had been driven to the reviewing stand in a limousine courtesy of Annaharvey Chauffeur Services.
He added: “All you have to do is look up and down the streets and see the crowds that are here . . it’s a great day, a day of importance for our community.”
Organising committee Secretary, Sean O’Brien, who acted as Master of Ceremonies during the parade, paid tribute to all who had been working behind the scenes to ensure the success of the parade including Offaly Co. Council, Civil Defence, the Gardai, Tullamore Comhaltas, Macs Cabs and the many sponsors.
He also referred to the lifetime of services given to Tullamore and Offaly by the parade’s Grand Marshall.
“He set up a lot of businesses, gave tremendous employment to people and provided advice to those setting up their own businesses,” said Mr O’Brien.
Among those on the reviewing stand were the Grand Marshall and members of his family, Fr Joe Gallagher P.P., Rev, William Hayes, Presbyterian Minister, Cllr Declan Harvey, Cathaoirleach of Tullamore Municipal District, Deputy Barry Cowen, Cllr Tommy McKeigue, in attendance for his 34th parade as a public representative, and the three judges, Geraldine Byrne, Frank Nicholson and John Cusack.
Blessed with fine weather, the parade took about an hour to pass the reviewing stand with everyone in agreement that it was the best and most free flowing in recent years.
The day went smoothly without any incident though stewards did prevent a physical altercation between two tetchy terriers in the OSPCA entry as it passed the platform.
Bands were also out in force and spectators were particularly pleased to see that St Colmcille’s Pipe Band had specially reformed for the occasion.
Other bands in attendance included near neighbours the Clara Town Band, Athlone Pipe Band and Mullingar Town Band playing old favourites such as “A Nation Once Again”, “The Offaly Rover” and “The Dawning of the Day”.
Sports clubs were well represented as is customary with Tullamore Town FC taking the category award. Their entry featured the long serving referee, Mickey Flanagan who recently marked five decades in the role.
They were joined by Killeigh Schoolboys and girls soccer club in a loud and colourful display, Tullamore GAA, Tullamore Camogie, Tullamore Ladies Football and Tullamore Rugby clubs.
Castlebarna Golf Club, which scooped the Most entertaining award, also entered a colourful display and persuaded Cllr Harvey to momentarily relinquish his seat on the review stand to take part in proceedings. The same councillor also found time to march with the Arts Centre entry as did his colleague, Cllr Tony McCormack, who also featured in the Durrow High Cross group float.
Perhaps the most physically impressive entry in the parade was the float from a group of local businesses highlighting the “circular economy”. Fittingly it took the business category award.
Action Group For The Arts Centre
Tullamore Trad Fest
Best School Entry
Gael Scoil An Eiscir Riada
St. Colmcille’s Pipe Band
Best Sport Entry
Best Youth Entry
St Mary’s Youth And Community Centre
Most Entertaining Entry
Castlebarna Golf Club Youth Section
Best Business Entry
Circular Economy - KMK Metals, Dotser and Longhaul Logistics
Best Window Display
My Fair Lady and Sue Ryder Shop
Best Dressed Dog
Jane Russell with Jockey