Due to the coronavirus alert, The Irish in France Association (IIF) have taken the decision to cancel the St. Patrick’s Day Parade which was due to take place on Saturday, March 14 in Paris. This was not a decision that was taken lightly and was made to ensure the optimal safety and security for all the parade participants.

The news came fast on the heels of announcements that SPD parades in other cities around the world, including Dublin (and all the parades throughout Ireland), had been canceled. We also learned today that the 14 March FRANCE vs IRELAND 2020 rugby match scheduled to be played at 07:00 PM in the Stade de France, in Saint-Denis, a close suburb of Paris, has been postponed till autumn.

Read more St. Patrick's Day stories on IrishCentral here

We also learned with much regret that the popular French Culture Minister, Franck Riester, has been infected by the coronavirus outbreak. On this morning’s news, we were informed that ‘it’s been seven days since,’ Minister Riester shook hands with French President Emmanuel Macron. In France, as in other countries around the globe, the most important critical question on many agendas is now not who shafted who, nor even who “shagged” who, the question of the day is “who shook hands with who” and when.

Although Irish living in France realized the decisions to cancel the parade and to postpone the match were taken in the best of sense, it temporarily knocked the smile out of many an Irish eye in Paris. However, the Irish community in Paris will still get into the swing of Paddy’s Day, but at smaller gatherings.

In fact, Paddy’s Day festivities actually got off to an early start in Paris this year with the Irish youngsters attending and preparing “green” parade outfits at workshops organized by the IIF and Rebecca Devaney, in the Centre Culturel Irlandais (CCI). Rebecca is an Irish haute-couture embroiderer living in Paris. The young Irish in Paris went green in every sense of the word at the work-shops on 1 & 8 March. They also had the opportunity to learn a cúpla focail as Caitríona Ní Chonaola, the Irish teacher from CCI, came along and entertained them with songs and sayings "as Gaeilge" as they worked on their outfits. The #YoungIrishinFrance (7-16-year-olds) created jellyfish outfits made from umbrellas and recycled materials. The younger brothers and sisters #Movers&Shakers (aged 7 and under) created special St Patrick’s Day Shakers (also made from recycled materials). Only in Paris could junk culture meet haute-couture, in a spirit of ecology and innovation, while respecting tradition in one great chic, green mix! Even though the parade won’t happen this year the youngsters had great days out and have cool outfits and accessories for any ‘green’ fancy dress party and for the SPD Parade 2021 parade.

I used to be slightly envious of the diaspora in other cities dotted around the world that had active Irish associations. However, since the foundation in 2017 of our own local organization, the Irish in France Association, we have absolutely nothing to envy any other city. We take our hats off to them and their 8-member volunteer team who worked flat out over the past few months to prepare for the parade. With all the work accomplished to date, they will be more than ready for the SPD Parade in 2021, which will be the third-ever parade in Paris.

The first SPD parade ever in the City of Light stepped out in 2018, under the snow, with 500 pioneer parade-goers braving the elements. In 2019, over two thousand stepped out, for a day to remember:

When we walked ‘Heel for heel and Toe for Toe’…

We fondly remember how last year the parade stepped out with Grand Marshall Fr Aidan Troy at its helm. Paris based Fr Troy is well known and well-loved in both Paris and Ireland. He is used to leading processions. In 2001 he walked daily for three months with the parents and children of the Holy Cross school during “the Holy Cross dispute”, in the Ardoyne area of north Belfast. Walking in the wake of Father Troy, a man who walks the good walk and talks the good talk, was inspirational.

Ruth Algar was scheduled to be the Grand Marshal of the 2020 Paris, STD Parade. Originally from Mullingar, Co. Westmeath, Ruth Algar was one of Ireland’s leading track and field athletes in the 70s. She moved to France in 1978 and represented France in the 400 meters hurdles from 1980-1983. She is a great role model and particularly inspiring for many of the young Irish and Franco-Irish living in France.

It's Business as usual for Msgr. Hugh Connolly

The St Patrick’s Day Mass will go ahead and will be celebrated by Msgr. Hugh Connolly – the Irish Chaplain to Paris on Sunday 15th at 16h30 in the Church of Saint Etienne du Mont (just behind the famous Panthéon building and a stone’s throw from the CCI). There will be a small reception in the CCI after the mass.

“Don’t Stop the Music!”

Music is still on the agenda and the CCI has three fantastic concerts on their cultural agenda for the Saint Patrick’s Festival 13 – 17 March.

FRIDAY 13 MARCH AT 7.30PM

Kíla: Inspired by a myriad of musical influences, this impressive eight-member trad band has built its international reputation on three decades of energetic innovation.

SUNDAY 15 MARCH AT 7.30PM

Cúig: This five-piece band from the North of Ireland is tearing up the rule book with their bold approach to their native musical tradition and has taken both sides of the Atlantic by storm.

TUESDAY 17 MARCH AT 7.30PM

Ensemble Eriu: Brings together some of Ireland’s most exciting young musicians, drawing on a wealth of creative sources to perform arrangements of Irish traditional music rooted in the repertoire of West and North County Clare.

We can also still enjoy the Paris SPD’s parade resource pack for fun facts on SPD Parades around the world and get together with family and friends to try out one of the traditional Irish recipes in the pack, courtesy of Trish Desine, Irish food writer. We will also enjoy, as part of Tourism Ireland’s ‘Global Greening line-up for St Patrick’s Day 2020’, 50 French sites, including the Moulin Rouge in Paris, turning green for the day when everyone gets to be Irish. Creative artwork for SPD 2020, courtesy of Ciara Chapman on the IIF facebook platform also brightens up our days. Ciara is an award-winning illustrator living in Cork Ireland.

You will be happy to know that French women remain chic during phase 2 of the coronavirus alert in Paris where the vast majority of worksites remain open. They can be spotted with Hermes silk scarves casually folded into gangster style masks as they navigate the streets and metros of Paris in stilettos. Parisian men, with this season’s bright-colored dramatically long scarves worn cocoon style, can quickly ‘up the scarf’ and adopt a chic Laurence of Arabia look while in crowded areas. Thank God for the Parisians who always manage to maintain a matter of fact attitude, and a fashion high, amid all kinds of crises!

Audrey Hepburn, as Sabrina, in the film of the same name, said Paris wasn’t just a hub for changing planes, it’s a place for throwing open the windows and letting in “la vie en rose”. So as you can see Irish eyes in Paris will still be smiling while remaining safe and sound at smaller get-togethers where we’ll let in “la vie en rose” for the “wearing of the green!”

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St. Patrick's Day Parade, Paris, 2019.Oisín Gormally