Amidst a global financial crisis and recent violence in Northern Ireland, St. Patrick's Day was celebrated around the world today with parades, parties and serious amounts of face paint. As many as half a million people crammed into Dublin's city center to mark the holiday, the AP reports.
"To hell with the recession! Let's dance!" shouted a leprechaun-dressed street entertainer in the vanguard of the parade. The 10-deep crowd roared with laughter at his lewd jig -- and, for an earsplitting hour featuring bands from India to Indiana, forgot its troubles.
Catholic Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin said both parts of Ireland should "send an urgent and unambiguous message that as one community, north and south, without distinction of belief or of political allegiance, we are united against anyone who takes the path of violence."
But tensions in Northern Ireland forced authorities to cancel the parade in one town, Lurgan. Catholic youths in the town rioted over the weekend after the area's alleged senior IRA dissident was arrested on suspicion of killing two British soldiers.
Belfast was turned into a sea of color and music, reports the Belfast Telegraph.
Hundreds lined the route from the City Hall to Custom House Square where teenage singing sensation Eoghan Quigg delighted the crowds.
Oompa Loompas from Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, some carrying oversize lollipops, accompanied the drum-banging band as the party got into full swing.
Stilt walkers and a mobile human windmill with aerial acrobats on either end accompanied the procession on its short journey to Custom House Square.
US President Barack Obama and Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen met in Washington, DC, to discuss the global financial crisis and the violence that rocked Northern Ireland, reports the Irish Times.
"Today when Irish America is bound together by a green thread woven through the great cities and into the heartland and length and breadth of this great country, it is a day, too, of reflection on our immigrant history, of our sense of place and of our need to connect," Mr Cowen said.
The Taoiseach said Ireland was proud of the Irish American community. He said America's leadership would be at the heart of the global resurgence, and Ireland was a steadfast friend of the US.
Obama also used the holiday to announce the selection of Pittsburgh Steelers owner Daniel Rooney to be U.S. ambassador to Ireland.