Leeds celebrates its Irish connections with 20th St Patrick's Day parade

Thousands lined the streets of the city centre as the 20th St Patrick's Day parade took place.

The Irish flag flies high in Leeds city centre today.

The celebration of Irish history, culture and tradition got underway with one of the highlights of the day - the parade through the city centre.

Dozens of floats decorated with flags, balloons, banners and posters followed by friends and supporters with an old red bus and a few tractors thrown in for good measure rolled from its starting point at Millennium Square and headed along Cookridge Street, Park Row, Boar Lane, looping up New Market Street, Vicar Lane and the Headrow, before returning back to Millennium Square.

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Meanwhile, spectators enjoyed music from a main stage and some good old Irish hospitality from the food and drink stalls.

A standard bearer and a Scottish band lead the way before the floats leave.

The Irish and the local Leeds community came together once again where history and politics is put aside for good fun, family day out.

Helen and Michael O'Callaghan of Cookridge watched the parade for the first time after research into her family tree revealed how much Irish ancestry she has.

She said: "I am doing ancestry research and it proved that my DNA is 40 per cent Irish. That is something that I am really proud of and just felt a connection. It is the first time that I have come to watch the parade, we do usually have a drink, but it has been good and I am surprised how many people come to watch, it is very busy."

Kevin Tierney, 65, of Beeston hails from Belfast in northern Ireland and has come every year to the parade.

Ed Sheeran music blared out as the floats passed by.

He said: "I have been coming for the last 20 years and there are a lot of us today. It is just a coming together and a celebration of being Irish and our life but it is not just for us, it is for everybody.

"I was working with some lads and I was blowing my mouth off, as I do, and I said 'you need to be proud of your country, let's go out for St George's day', so we did and we had a right day."

Once the parade returned to Millennium Square the winning float was announced by a representative of the Irish Embassy and this year the prize went to Corpus Christi Primary School.

Jack Dwyer, the chairman of the Leeds Irish Centre St Patrick's Day committee added: "Thankyou to everybody for bearing with us as we celebrate 20 years of St Patrick's Day in Leeds, I don't know where the day came from but it has been wonderful.

Some traditional tractors also paraded through the city centre.

"I would like to thank everybody involved for making the parade the success that it has been, it must have been very frustrating getting it together but they did it and it has been wonderful."

Smiled all round as the parade passes by.
Josie and David Neal at the St Patricks Day celebrations on Millennium Square
Revellers get into the Irish spirit.