ACT News


A guide to St Patrick's Day in Canberra: Guinness, potatoes and lots of Irish dancing

Guinness and potatoes won't be the only items on the St Patrick's Day menu in Canberra on Tuesday. 

Swarms of brightly-clad dancers hope to get feet tapping before faces start turning green as the Irish and the Irish at heart enjoy the annual celebration at watering holes across town.

While traditional Irish dancing is ingrained in the country's culture, its popularity among dancers halfway across the world in Australia hasn't waned.

McGrath Irish Dance students will be among performers clad with big hair and bright attire springing around clubs, pubs and shopping centres throughout St Patrick's Day. 

Director Leanne McGrath, who teaches 65 students, said the lively but technical dance style was growing across the country, largely due to the explosion of Riverdance a number of years ago, with about 200 dancers based in the ACT alone. 

"The numbers are still growing around Australia rather than slowing down, which is really nice to see," she said. 


"Probably 50 per cent of my dancers have an Irish background of some sort. I think back here it's always embedded in the Irish heritage that you do Irish dancing.

"We really try to have fun with it, so we do lots of dance outs, especially for St Patrick's Day. It's just really fun to watch. It's fun and the Irish have always seen it as fun."

While the costumes play a large part – and include a multitude of colours other than just shamrock green – there's a lot more to a good traditional jig than towering hair and a kick of the legs.

"A lot of people say Irish dancing is far more about the wigs and the dresses but that isn't the case – you do have to look the part but it doesn't have to be all about the dresses," Ms McGrath said.

"We've got dancers here who train five days a week. Some of them are only just reaching that national level. There's so many things you have to look for. You can get down to two seconds of a dance and that's what you'll practice all week, just those two seconds."

Your guide to St Patrick's Day in Canberra

Canberra Irish Club

A day of activities and giveaways at the Weston club will spring into action with an Irish breakfast at 7am, followed by Irish dance performances throughout the day and live music from noon well into the night. The bistro will be serving Irish-influenced dishes all day. For those keen for a longer-lasting memory, the club is also selling a limited number of St Paddy's Day polo shirts.

From 7am. Parkinson Street, Weston.

St Patrick's Day Service

Brigidine nun and child refugee advocate Sister Jane Keogh will deliver a St Patrick's Day address at the lunch-break friendly service from midday. Irish Minister of State for Food, Forestry, Horticulture and Food Safety Tom Hayes, Irish ambassador Noel White and acting British High Commissioner Tony Brennan will be among guests. Performers include the Canberra Celtic Choir. 

12 noon - 12.45pm. Australian Centre for Christianity & Culture, 15 Blackall Street, Barton.

King O'Malley's

The city watering hole is offering a mix of live music from 1pm. The young at heart can get their faces painted green from 4pm, while traditional Irish dancing begins at 5pm.

From 1pm. 131 City Walk, Civic.

PJ O'Reilly's

The city pub will have Irish dancing and live entertainment from midday well into the evening, plus plenty of giveaways.

From 12 noon. Corner Alinga St and West Row, Civic

PJ O'Reilly's Tuggeranong

The southside establishment will also have traditional Irish dancing and acoustics throughout the afternoon and evening with Guinness and Magners giveaways on tap.

From 1pm. PJ O'Reilly's Tuggeranong, 78 Reed Street North, Greenway.