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Ireland cancels St. Patrick’s Day events amid coronavirus concern

Parade and festival events in Dublin and Belfast were cancelled Monday.
Eleanor Buist, left, Anne Slattery and Pat O'Reilly Hauser toast during a St. Patrick's Day lunch at Four Green Fields.
Eleanor Buist, left, Anne Slattery and Pat O'Reilly Hauser toast during a St. Patrick's Day lunch at Four Green Fields.
Published Mar. 10, 2020

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Just hours after officials in the Republic of Ireland announced there were no plans to cancel St. Patrick’s Day events, government leader Leo Varadkar said all parades — including in the Irish capital of Dublin — would be cancelled.

Varadkar, Ireland’s Taoiseach, a role similar to prime minister, said the decision was based on a recommendation from the National Public Health Emergency Team and came following the meeting of a special cabinet committee formed to handle coronavirus response. Earlier Monday, the Irish Times reported the government was hesitant to cancel St. Patrick’s Day events out of fear that widespread closures could fuel public panic. Just before the meeting, Ireland’s minister for transport, tourism and sport, Shane Ross, said government ministers would let health officials make the final call.

“Due to the unique nature and scale of the St Patrick’s Day festivities, in terms of size, the mass gathering of local and international travelers, and the continued progression of community transmission in some European countries, along with the emergence of a small number of cases of local transmission in Ireland, the government has decided that St Patrick’s Day parades, including the Dublin parade, will not proceed,” Varadkar’s office said in a statement following the committee meeting.

According to the most recent financial figures available from St. Patrick’s Day Festival organizers, the 2016 festival generated 73 million euros, or about $83 million, from foreign travelers alone and is expected to be higher. Dublin’s tourism agency said the city gets more than 500,000 visitors on parade day, with even more passing through during the five-day festival.

According to a statement from the festival, the St. Patrick’s Festival Parade, treasure hunt and Céilí Mór events are cancelled and the festival village will be closed. Organizers said smaller events, including talks, live performances and exhibitions, were set to go on.

Monday proved a turning point for the separate nation of Northern Ireland as well. The city council in Belfast, the country’s capital, announced it too would be cancelling its St. Patrick’s Day parade.

According to a White House news release, Vardkar is supposed to visit the White House this week to meet with President Donald J. Trump in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. According to the BBC, Northern Ireland has 12 reported cases of coronavirus, while the Republic of Ireland has 24.

Meanwhile, in Florida, Tampa’s Saturday St. Patrick’s Day Parade through Ybor City and the Mayor’s River O’Green Fest at Curtis Hixon Park are scheduled to proceed as normal.

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