Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: St Patrick's Day is an opportunity for shared celebration across Ireland... and rugby win will make it all the sweeter

Editor's Viewpoint

Many parts of Northern Ireland, including the two main cities, will be a sea of green today to mark St Patrick's Day. It is an occasion that is marked around the world, often in much grander scale than in the land of which he is patron. Yet he is, or should be, a shared symbol in a still divided province.

However, there will be ecumenical events and religious services in several places, and nowhere will this shared expression be more evident than in Armagh, where the Catholic and Church of Ireland cathedrals bear the saint's name.

Many eyes will be on Belfast, where a complex policing operation will swing into action to ensure the parade and concert pass off peacefully, that a lid is kept on the annual troublespot of the Holyland, the city's biggest student quarter, and that fans attending a football match in the afternoon between Linfield and Glentoran keep their loyalties under control.

But there is another event taking place tomorrow across the Irish Sea that will have a great unifying effect on rugby fans throughout this island.

Ireland, already assured of winning the Six Nations Championship, take on England at Twickenham in pursuit of only their third Grand Slam. Having deprived England of that honour last year, the Irish will be hoping to rub salt in their opponents' wound.

Unbeaten in 11 matches, the Irish team has been welded into a formidable unit and a number of players from Ulster, including the captain Rory Best, have contributed handsomely to the team's success.

For one young player, Ulsterman Jacob Stockdale, international rugby must seem easy as he has been running in tries for fun. He has already scored six, and fans all over Ireland will be hoping that he adds to that total today.

This would be a fitting occasion for the boys in green to win the Grand Slam and make this one of the most memorable St Patrick's Days on record. But whatever the result, let us hope that everyone has a happy and peaceful day.

Belfast Telegraph

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