2020 St. Patrick's Day Like No Other

Iconic sites worldwide turn green
Iconic sites worldwide turn green

Ireland is a nation that understands what it means to be a people globally connected but apart. This was never more evident than on St. Patrick’s Day 2020, when the global pandemic of COVID-19 resulted in the cancellation of events and parades at home and abroad. While social distancing meant we couldn’t mark our national holiday in the way we normally would, social media was alive with virtual parades and stories and images of families coming together by staying apart for the greater good.

In his address to the nation that evening, An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar called it “a St. Patrick’s Day like no other”. Paying tribute to health-care professionals, the Taoiseach also praised the efforts of other front-line workers, including hauliers, teachers and those keeping our supermarket shelves fully stocked during this unprecedented time of national crisis.

Amidst the darkness, Tourism Ireland’s Global Greening project helped shine a light on our diaspora, as hundreds of landmarks and sites in over 50 countries were lit up green to mark St Patrick's Day.

Among the sites that took part this year were the London Eye, Burj al Arab in Dubai, Niagara Falls, the 'Welcome’ sign in Las Vegas, the Chain Bridge in Budapest, Madison Square Garden in New York, Caerphilly Castle in South Wales, the Smurf Statue in Brussels and the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro.

Locations going green for the first time in 2020 included City Hall in Bangkok, Palais du Peuple in Djibouti City, the National Theatre in London and the Palace Bridge in St Petersburg. In spite of the challenges our diaspora is facing, the Greening Project 2020 is an act of hope and solidarity; a timely reminder that we are all in this together.

Donegal’s Community Spirit In the Face of COVID-19

Closer to home, Donegal’s community spirit is stronger than ever and there are so many stories of people finding innovative and creative ways to help others manage during this difficult time.

Following the closure of their Quay West restaurant in Donegal Town, chefs Tim Twomey and Jo Roarty came together to set up 'Chef Aid Donegal'. Together with two other local chefs, whose restaurants were also closed, they set up a kitchen in a former restaurant to prepare free meals every day to deliver to the elderly and more vulnerable people in their area. Through a dedicated phone line, the chefs are connecting with people – many of whom are living alone – and organising for a hot meal to be delivered to them each evening. This is a brilliant example of Donegal’s community spirit and a great idea that could be easily replicated in other towns.

Moville Clothing is a small family-run clothing business which is also using its skillset to support the health service in a time of crisis.  The company, which specialises in clerical shirts and legal clothing has completely pivoted production to concentrate on making scrubs for front-line healthcare workers.

Donegal designer Edel McBride joined the effort by starting a #pledgescrubs campaign, whereby people can gift a set of scrubs from the company to a frontline healthcare worker. The campaign reached over 56K in a matter of days and continues to grow apace.

Meanwhile, Donegal community gardener Joanne Butler, from OURganic Garden has started a campaign #getgrowingdonegal to help and encourage people in Donegal to start growing vegetables in this period of isolation. In a bid to encourage people to stay together, while apart, Joanne has started a YouTube channel with one minute wonders sharing her advice on how to get out to the garden to grow.

Another key impact of COVID-19 has been nationwide school closures, but The Regional Cultural Centre in Letterkenny has come up with a novel idea to keep children entertained and off screens at home. Hundreds of children around Donegal and the world are now participating in The Regional Cultural Centre’s ‘Home is where the Art is’ challenge.

The Regional Cultural Centre (RCC) Letterkenny, which is proudly funded by Donegal County Council and Arts Council Ireland, launched the challenge to encourage children to be creative while confined to their homes. Various themes are posted as part of the challenge and children are invited to draw or paint something that inspires them related to that theme.

Parents can then upload a picture of the artwork to a dedicated Facebook page and the RCC plans to have a physical exhibition of the artworks once the Letterkenny centre re-opens. While the RCC building remains closed to the public, the staff is working on a number of other projects, such as online lessons, music and storytelling, to educate and keep children (and adults) entertained and occupied from the comfort of their homes.

For more information on the ‘Home is where the Art is’ Challenge visit the RCC for kids Facebook Page.

These examples are just some of the ways Donegal people are the living embodiment of the old Irish proverb: Ní neart go cur le chéile – ‘There is no strength without unity’. We look forward to brighter days ahead and will never again take for granted the ability to celebrate our national holiday (or any day!) with our friends, family and local community. Here’s to an even bigger and better celebration in 2021!