The streets of Irish cities were quiet on St Patrick’s Day in sharp contrast to the usual lively festivities.
Almost all the usual colourful parades that attract thousands were called off following medical advice for social distancing to slow the spread of Covid-19.
Small numbers of European tourists turned out on O’Connell Street in Dublin where the city’s main parade usually takes place.
And there were deserted streets in the popular Temple Bar area.
With pubs closed, visitors instead entertained themselves by taking selfies and buying St Patrick’s Day merchandise.
Just one small religious parade took place at Saul, Co Down, where social distancing was observed.
Instead, church bells across Dublin rang out at 11am to act as a reminder of the faith and as an expression of social solidarity.
The Catholic Primate of All-Ireland and Archbishop of Armagh, Eamon Martin, celebrated a live-streamed Mass service at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh, during which he urged an “outpouring of the works of mercy towards the sick and vulnerable, and for a spirit of generosity and self-sacrifice, compassion and charity in Ireland, and across the world”.
The Irish Defence Forces sent a St Patrick’s Day message from south Lebanon and from Syria where they are serving on peacekeeping duties.
Lieutenant Colonel Robert Hurley, officer commanding of the 115 Infantry Battalion, said they are making every effort to minimise the impact of coronavirus.
“The Lebanese authorities have taken unprecedented measures to prevent the spread of the virus, in the meantime peace support operations will continue as normal,” he said.
Lieutenant Paul Murphy said leave has been cancelled for many troops.
“Due to the coronavirus many of our troops will not be returning home on leave, we would like to thank our family and loved ones at this difficult time for their love and support,” he said.
The streets in Belfast were similarly deserted where the annual parade had also been cancelled.
Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill issued a message asking the public to do St Patrick’s Day differently this year.
“No pubs, no gatherings and no get-togethers,” she said.
“Next year we can all have bigger, better and brilliant St Patrick’s Day. But this year, our priority must be to stop the spread of Covid-19.”
Meanwhile, the annual global greening initiative in which famous buildings around the world are lit up to mark St Patrick’s Day is continuing, including Madison Square Garden in New York, City Hall in Bangkok, the Palace Bridge in St Petersburg, the London Eye, Burj al Arab, Niagara Falls and the Welcome sign in Las Vegas.
Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said he hoped the move would “bring a little positivity and hope to people everywhere”.
Picture: A sign announcing the cancellation of a St Patrick’s Day parade in Athy, County Kildare, due to coronavirus. (Niall Carson/PA).