St. Patrick's Day on the West Coast
Blog29 March 2022
Ireland's Embassy in the US Shades of Green virtual reception
For St. Patrick's Day 2022, Ireland, in the wake of the pandemic, will connect with our communities at home and overseas, and especially the people of Ukraine. We will mark this St Patrick’s Day with solidarity rather than celebration and we express our Irish identity by re-dedicating ourselves to democratic and humanitarian values.
On February 28 2022 US President Joe Biden signed the annual proclamation declaring March Irish-American Heritage Month. "The US & Ireland are deeply and forever intertwined... We share, in every heart, an unrelenting optimism- a flicker of hope that guides us through even the darkest of nights." Ireland's President Michael D. Higgins issued his St. Patrick's Day message which is available here. "On this St. Patrick’s Day 2022, as once again the darkness of war rather than the extension of peace covers our world, may I send, as Uachtarán na hÉireann, my warmest greetings and sincere good wishes to our Irish family across the world, and to all those who have been, remain and are working to be such good friends to Ireland."
On the West Coast, the St. Patrick’s Day festivities began on February 25th with the Grand Marshall Dinner at the UICC honouring this years' Grand Marshall Jim Byrne - a champion of US immigration reform.
On Wednesday, March 9 the Lord Mayor of Cork Cllr. Colm Kelleher and delegation arrived to San Francisco. The delegation was hosted by the San Francisco – Cork sister city committee, and Lord Mayor Kelleher described the trip to the twinned city, as “aimed at further developing the city’s civic, business and tourism links, promoting the work of Cork City Council’s ground-breaking Women’s Caucus, building key international linkages and supporting Cork’s plans to develop its historical associations and commemorate the work of abolitionist leader, Frederick Douglass.” A highlight of the visit included Deputy Lord Mayor of Cork Mary Rose Desmond meeting with San Francisco City Administrator Carmen Chu and Director of Office of Small Business Katy Tang to discuss San Francisco’s Commission on the Status of Women.
Lord Mayor Kelleher was welcomed at San Francisco’s GLBT Historical Society. Cork City has joined San Francisco as a member of the Rainbow Cities Network which works to foster social inclusion and diversity. The Lord Mayor met with Executive Director Andrew Shaffer, and historian and former board member of the Historical Society, Gerard Koskovich, who also has family from Donegal. The delegation was given a short tour of the exhibits at the museum, pausing to admire the original Rainbow Flag, now on permanent display in the Museum. “Cork…was the first city in Ireland to fly the rainbow flag over its City Hall in 2014, a flag donated, incidentally, by late San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee.” Read more about the GLBT Historical Society Museum visit here.
Friday, March 11th was a busy day for the Irish in San Francisco with the Flag Raising ceremony at San Francisco City Hall followed by a reception hosted by Mayor London Breed and Supervisor Catherine Stefani. The Irish Flag Raising was the last major event to take place at City Hall before the COVID shut down in 2020. Mayor Breed spoke about renewing the relationship between Ireland and San Francisco and presented Consul General O’Driscoll and Lord Mayor Kelleher with a Proclamation declaring the month of March as Irish-American Friendship and Heritage Day in the City and County of San Francisco. Mayor Breed also commended Jim Byrne on being this year’s Grand Marshall of the St. Patrick’s Day parade and declared March 11th as ‘Jim Byrne Day’ in the City and County of San Francisco.
District 2 Board of Supervisors for the City and County of San Francisco Catherine Stefani spoke about the Irish impact on the city of San Francisco and presented Consul General Robert O’Driscoll with a Certificate of Honour signed by all members of the Board for his outstanding service to the City and County of San Francisco. The flag raising ceremony also featured performances from the Irish pipers, Celtic Voices, Irish dancers from both Murphy Irish Dancers and Whelan’s Academy of Irish Dance.
Following the Irish flag raising ceremony at City Hall with Mayor London Breed, the Lord Mayor of Cork and delegation attended a reception at Ireland House San Francisco that was hosted by the San Francisco – Cork Sister City Committee. It was a wonderful event attended by the Cork delegation, Enterprise Ireland client companies from Cork, and members of San Francisco’s Irish-American community. These visits strengthen the bonds between the twinned cities and the San Francisco Cork Sister City Board looks forward to reciprocating with a trip in the very near future. The Consulate also hosted a delegation from Bray City Council on Friday morning for a tour of Ireland House and the delegation’s first visit to the Bay Area.
The weekend saw a number of St. Patrick’s Day parades take place on the West Coast with Robert O’Driscoll and Grand Marshall Jim Byrne leading the parade in San Francisco on Saturday, March 12th and Vice Consul Doireann O’Brien and Mayor Bruce Harrell leading the parade in Seattle on Sunday, March 13th. Both parades showcased Irish culture with music, dancing, sport, and community organizations coming together for the first St. Patrick’s Day parades since the COVID-19 shutdown in 2020.
In San Francisco, Consul General O'Driscoll and Ukrainian Consul General Dmytro Kushneruk opened the parade and walked the full route with a banner bearing the message “We are all Ukrainians now.” Many Irish organizations in the parade also expressed solidarity with Ukraine and many Ukrainian community members in San Francisco were in attendance. The theme of solidarity and unity extended into other contingents such as the Chinese and Irish Railroad Workers group, who commemorated the joint Chinese and Irish labour that built America's first transcontinental railroad, completed in 1869.
In Seattle, Vice Consul Doireann O’Brien introduced the former Taoiseach of Ireland Enda Kenny who virtually joined a business breakfast with the Irish Network in Seattle. The event was a wonderful opportunity to gather the Irish diaspora in Washington State for the first in-person St. Patrick’s Day event since the pandemic began. Mr. Kenny spoke about the deep historic connections between Ireland and Washington State, as well as the growing contemporary links, which include the establishment of an Enterprise Ireland and IDA presence in Seattle over the past two years.
Following the breakfast, the group joined the Irish Proclamation lunch where Deputy Mayor Yamaguchi read the City of Seattle Proclamation, announcing “Ireland Week” in the Emerald City. Deputy Mayor of Galway, Martina O’Connor also spoke, speaking to the strong relationship between Galway and its Sister City, Seattle.
The United Irish Cultural Center in San Francisco hosted their annual GreenFest the day after the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Incredible musical performances by Sean Daly & the Shams, Christy O’Connell/Kevin Roche, Thomas Power, Hill & Rhodes and many more took place throughout the day in addition to the Irish dancing performances. The GreenFest block party hosted various vendors with special Irish goods for sale as well as traditional Irish food and drinks being served. The UICC also showcased Annie Hall’s exhibit ‘Children of the Free State’ exhibition supported by Culture Ireland.
The following Monday through Wednesday the Consulate General of Ireland hosted Ireland’s Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath T.D. for a visit to the Bay Area. Highlights of the trip included visiting the State Capital in Sacramento, the Annual St. Patrick’s Day Business Breakfast, and the Official Opening of Ireland House San Francisco. Read more about the Minister’s visit here.
The Consulate General of Ireland San Francisco also took part in the Irish Embassy’s (Washington DC) virtual Shades of Green reception that showcased the many faces of Ireland in America. Consulates across the US in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Austin, Chicago, Atlanta, Boston, and New York took part in the reception along with musical performances from the Villagers, Paul Brady, Mick Flannery & Susan O’Neill, Laoise Kelly, Skipper’s Alley & Edwina Guckian, Tolu Makay and Áirc Damhsa. We hope you all had a wonderful St. Patrick's Day!