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St Patrick's Day 2017: Northern Ireland awash with a sea of green as thousands defy the rain for day of celebration

By Allan Preston

The rain couldn't stop the crowds turning out to celebrate St Patrick's day with spectacular parades held across Northern Ireland. The Belfast procession from City Hall to Custom House Square featured everything from dance groups, pipe bands, Star Wars characters with an Irish twist and even a dinosaur.

Enjoying the atmosphere was Courtney and Stephen Dempsey, aged 9 and 10, along with Ruari (8) and his 52-year-old dad Jim Bradley, from Garvagh.

"It was very good and I liked St Patrick the best," said Courtney who had just shared a high five with one of the performers dressed as the patron saint.

"I saw a Stormtrooper," said an excited Stephen of the eye-catching group of Star Wars characters entertaining the crowds, "but at least he was wearing green".

Jim added: "All the colours were spectacular and everyone was just so nicely dressed, even if the weather was better last year."

Not letting the rain spoil the party atmosphere, his son Ruari added: "It was the best St Patrick's Day parade ever."

The party continued with a concert in Custom House Square, headlined by X Factor runner-up Fleur East.

In Londonderry, proceedings got underway around noon in Guildhall Square.

Check out our galleries from the parades in - Derry - Belfast - Downpatrick - Dublin - Newry - Armagh - Photos from around the world

Undeterred by the weather, thousands of people lined the parade route which provided a rainbow of colour and culture.

Keeping with the theme of the day, although in a somewhat non-traditional mode of transport - a huge effigy of St Patrick himself kicked off the start of the parade on a motortricycle.

Making their first appearance at the festival was the local Hindu Association who brought elements of their own 'Holi' festival, otherwise known as the festival of colours, to the parade.

Isobel McGarrigle, from Limavady, along with her husband Mike and two children, Becca (10) and Jodie (7) all agreed it was well worth coming up to Derry, despite the gloomy forecast.

Isobel said: "We were in two minds about whether we would come or not because the forecast was for heavy rain but it's not that bad, so I am glad we didn't stay at home.

"The atmosphere is brilliant, it is very well organised and there is absolutely nobody drunk which is a great thing to see when you have young children with you."

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In Armagh, the carnival set off from the Palace Demesne to the city centre where crowds enjoyed a concert from Celtic rock band More Power To Your Elbow.

In Downpatrick, the patron saint, aka actor Marty Burns, was spotted taking a pre-parade selfie with members of the Magnus Vikings Association.

A pilgrimage also took place from Saul Church towards Down Cathedral where it is believed the patron saint is buried.

In Newry, the streets also came alive with the parade departing Queen's Quay, with entertainment from Irish dancers and tribal drummers.

In Dublin, there were ridiculous costumes galore as the massive parade entertained thousands on the city streets, with Irish President Michael D Higgins watching the celebrations.

In the US, New York, Boston and Chicago were among the major cities celebrating everything Irish.

Famous landmarks across the world were also lit up in green lights including the Great Wall of China, Niagra Falls and the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro.

Meanwhile, away from the many parades there were three blockbuster schools' cup finals in rugby, GAA and football.

In the rugby clash, RBAI won their third consecutive title after taking on Methody at the Kingspan stadium in east Belfast with a nail-bitingly close final score of 12-8.

In GAA, there were ecstatic scenes in Armagh's Athletic grounds as St Mary's of Magherafelt made history by winning their first title over 19-time champions St Colman's College from Newry with a final score of 0-19 to 0-13.

In football, Grosvenor successfully defended the Schools' Cup with a 3-1 victory over St Columb's in extra time at Seaview.

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