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Last Updated: Friday, 17 March 2006, 18:46 GMT
NI celebrations mark St Pat's Day
St Patrick's Day parade in Belfast
Thousands lined the streets of Belfast for the parade
Parades and concerts have taken place across Northern Ireland as part of the celebrations to mark St Patrick's Day.

The main parades were held in Belfast, Downpatrick and Londonderry.

For the first time, the Belfast parade was sponsored by the city's council who were hoping for a cross-community event.

SDLP deputy Lord Mayor Pat Convery said he thought this had been achieved to a "certain degree". "It is a small step forward in a divided city," he said.

"We hope that the diversity of our city will be able to be included in this parade and concert.

"We hope this will be the first step in many and we hope we will be able to generate a lot of interest in this new event every year if it is possible."

This year's Belfast celebrations featured a carnival parade from the city hall to Custom House Square, where a St Patrick's Day Concert was compered by BBC Northern Ireland personality John Daly was taking place.

The carnival's route followed along Donegall Place to Castle Junction and into Castle Place, before proceeding along High Street, Victoria Street and finally into Custom House Square.

A bagpiper at a St Patrick's Day parade in West Orange, New Jersey, USA

In the past, the parade was regarded as contentious with unionists objecting to the presence of Irish tricolours.

The police have said they want people to enjoy the celebrations in Northern Ireland, but warned about the dangers of drink driving.

Northern Ireland's main political leaders, except DUP leader Ian Paisley, joined in the 17 March festivities at the White House in Washington.

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