ConU cheers St Patrick’s Day

As the day escaped into sunset and the crowds withered away, green banners, hats, balloons and streamers continued to litter Ste. Catherine Street on Sunday between du Fort and St. Urbain as people in high spirits celebrated St. Patrick’s Day sipping their green beer in a festive occasion of shamrocks and kisses.

The 179th annual St. Patrick’s Day parade took full swing at noon on Sunday with anxious observers awaiting the 70 floats and bands that passed by during the three hour procession.

The weather only added to the event with numerous party-goers basking in the sun on the north and south side of the street. Although the temperature was wonderful, it would not have stopped Montrealers from attending the annual celebration even if Jack Frost swept through the city.

History has it that Montreal’s St. Patty’s Day parade is the longest running parade in North America and it not only represents Montreal’s strong Irish community, but also reflects the many cultures that make up this multi-cultural city.

“Just along the parade route you see so many different nationalities that come out to enjoy the parade, as well as in the parade we have different communities,” says Kenneth Quinn, interim parade director from the Organization for the United Irish Societies of Montreal.

“I think that [the parade] is an opportunity for the community to revitalize itself, to be aware of its cultures in terms of music and song and literature and its contribution to Quebec society,” adds Michael Kenneally, director of the recently established Irish studies program at Concordia.

Kenneally was chosen to be this year’s Grand Marshal for the parade. “It’s a great honour because it’s seen by the people who pick you as being representative of the Irish community and that occasion, and being a figure that the Irish community wants to honour or acknowledge.”

Kenneally has been involved with the Irish community in Montreal for many years and has recently accomplished the integration of the Irish Studies program at Concordia that officially started in September 2002.

“For the Irish community [the parade] is always an invigorating time of the year and then it’s also a time of reaching out and sharing Irish culture with the other communities,” says Kenneally.

The United Irish Societies of Montreal organize the annual parade and choose the Grand Marshal each year since its inception in 1928 for the sole purpose of organizing the event. Before that time, the parade was organized by the St. Patrick’s Society of Montreal of which Kenneally is the past president.

Today, the United Irish Societies of Montreal acts charitably by making Christmas baskets. Easter baskets and provides entertainment for seniors residents.

The St. Patrick’s Day parade, however, is still the Societies’ biggest challenge and they pull it off each year with great success and pride.

“To me, it really signifies the coming of spring, that’s one, and two, it allows the Irish community to display its Irish pride, and number three, it shows what a multicultural city Montreal is,” says Quinn.

With the weather well above zero, the coming of spring did arrive for everyone in Montreal. After the parade came to an end people remained outside in the warm weather and enjoyed the change in temperature from the bitter cold days everyone experienced over the past few weeks.

Young and old, people were decked out in green sparkling shamrocks, foam top hats, and signs and buttons that shouted ‘Kiss Me I’m Irish’ and ‘Everybody’s Irish on St. Patty’s Day.”

A statement that is all too true, not only for organizers and participants, but also for those watching the parade that came out to enjoy a day of peace and coming together.

“It’s about unity, it’s about people from a whole bunch of different cultures pretending to be Irish, getting together, and just having a good time and being united,” says Patrick Belanger as he held up his glass of green beer and cheered his friends at Cheers where the partying continued well into the evening as did many bars around town.

For more information on the United Irish Societies of Montreal visit their web site at

For more information on the centre for Canadian Irish studies at Concordia visit


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