From Atlanta to Savannah, thousands turned out Saturday as St. Patrick’s Day celebrations shifted into high gear, but the festivities were not without a taste of Irish temperament.
Enthusiasts lined Peachtree Street in downtown Atlanta for the city’s 131st annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Bagpipers in kilts, marching bands and floats adorned in green were among the 2,000 participants on a warm breezy and sunny day before the official observance Sunday.
The grand marshal for Atlanta’s parade, however, Deputy Prime Minister Eamon Gilmore of Ireland, reportedly decided to skip a visit to Savannah to avoid attending a “male only” dinner celebrating Irish heritage.
The annual dinner is held by the Hibernian Society, the oldest of Savannah’s Irish societies and organizations. The Irish Times reported Saturday that Gilmore’s attendance at the dinner would have been a major part of the trip so he decided to skip the city.
“Count me out – I’m not doing it,” Gilmore, the country’s Labor Party leader, was quoted by the Irish Times as saying. “I don’t believe in segregation either on a gender basis or on any other basis.”
Hibernian Society President William Bruggeman was quoted as saying he was not aware of any politician, “Irish or U.S.,” ever turning down an invitation to the dinner due to a disagreement “with any of our traditions.”
Savannah annually holds what is considered the largest St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the Southeast. It has held its parade for the last 189 years. It was started in 1824 by early Irish immigrants to Georgia.