St Pat’s day comes early

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By JU­LIAN RAETHEL

For­get Black Fri­day, the town will be painted green this week­end with the smil­ing Ir­ish in full swing.

Ir­ish fes­tiv­i­ties are com­ing to Auck­land early this year with the St Pa­trick’s Day Pa­rade down Queen St on Sun­day, March 15, fol­lowed by the Fleadh (fes­ti­val of Ir­ish cul­ture) and the ‘‘green­ing’’ of the Sky Tower.

New Zealand is among the first in the world to cel­e­brate St Pa­trick’s Day and the spe­cial light­ing of the Sky Tower kick-starts the Global Green­ing, which con­tin­ues on many icons around the world, in­clud­ing Niagara Falls and the Eif­fel Tower.

New Zealand’s hon­orary con­sul gen­eral of Ire­land Rod­ney Wal­she has been in the role for decades and will be a busy man even be­fore the na­tional day ar­rives on March 17.

‘‘St Pa­trick’s Day is the most in­ter­na­tion­ally cel­e­brated na­tional day,’’ he says.

‘‘It’s due to mas­sive em­i­gra­tion from Ire­land.

‘‘About 400,000 Ir­ish left in 1916 and 1.2 mil­lion be­tween 1922 to 1969.

‘‘It was a mass ex­o­dus. Pres­i­dent Mary Robin­son (1990 to 1997) at the time recog­nised that the coun­try should not for­get them.’’

The St He­liers man em­i­grated from Ire­land to New Zealand in 1960 and vis­its his home­land at least once a year via his diplo­matic role.

It’s a great time to be an Ir­ish sup­porter on the sport­ing front, par­tic­u­larly in rugby union and cricket.

With the Cricket World Cup in our backyard, Ire­land has de­fied the sta­tus quo and are in the run­ning to make it to the quar­ter­fi­nals.

They need to beat Pak­istan on Sun­day to keep the Ir­ish dream alive, which would make a mem­o­rable ad­di­tion to St Pa­trick’s Day cel­e­bra­tions.

For Wal­she and his team, the cel­e­bra­tions be­gan al­most three weeks ago. He will join Ir­ish cabi­net min­is­ter Alex White in the pa­rade.

‘‘It’s a com­mu­nity day, and it’s not just all booz­ing,’’ Wal­she says. ‘‘There’s also the com­mer­cial, diplo­matic and busi­ness as­pects of it.’’

Lucky charm: The big man him­self at last year’s St Pa­trick’s Day Pa­rade.

Emer­ald green: Rod­ney Wal­she vis­its Ire­land at least once a year.

Sham rockin’: Per­form­ers en­ter­tain the crowds in the 2014 pa­rade.

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