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Late St. Patrick's Day for Ireland



DUBLIN, Ireland -- Revellers in Ireland are celebrating a belated St. Patrick's Day after it was postponed over foot-and-mouth fears.

A three-day Saint Patrick's Day Festival was launched on Friday -- two months after it was cancelled for the usual March 17 holiday.

Fears that the livestock disease could spread to the country forced the postponement of the March celebrations, despite the fact the had not been a single case of foot-and-mouth at the time.

Only one case of the virus was later confirmed in the Republic of Ireland, on March 23, while Northern Ireland saw the last of four cases in early April.

Chief organiser of the 2m ($2.9m) festival, Maria Moynihan, told the Associated Press: "This (festival) will have special significance, because of the way Ireland responded to the foot-and-mouth crisis.

"The whole community banded together wonderfully. We've something extra special to celebrate."

Around half a million people are expected to converge on the centre of Dublin for the celebrations over the weekend.

The festival is due to open with around 2,000 teenage students leading an evening torch-lit procession to the River Liffey, where 10-metre-high (30-foot-high) wooden effigies will be burned on pontoons on the water.

Central Dublin is holding street carnivals on Saturday, ending with a huge firework display brought by the company that finished off the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Bands and thousands of performers from around the world will parade throughout the city on Sunday.

But the authorities are still taking no chances with foot-and-mouth disease -- large disinfectant-soaked mats will be spread out on paths leading to the weekend's events.







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• St Patricks Festival 2001
• Dublin Tourism

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