HELENA — The St. Patrick’s Day celebration at the Montana State Capitol started bright and early with the raising of the Irish tri-color flag and traditional Irish dancing.
Governor Greg Gianforte proclaimed March 17 Irish Heritage Day and helped raise the Irish flag at the state capitol at 8:00 a.m. The raising of the Irish flag has been a tradition for almost 40 years.
The governor joined the Thomas Francis Meagher Division of the Ancient Order of the Hibernians as the celebrations continued in the Rotunda of the capitol building. This year was the first year since the pandemic began that celebrations took place inside the capitol building.
Music of the Pipes & Drums of the Black Devils band filled the capitol, followed by an Irish song on violin, and traditional Irish dancing by the Tiernan Irish Dancers.
“We're all Montanans. We're all Americans. But we still have those Irish roots. And that's why we do the celebration here, to remind ourselves of Thomas Francis Meagher, our namesake for our division, and of the Irish History of Montana,” says Patrick Flaherty, President of the Thomas Francis Meagher Division of the Ancient Order of the Hibernians.
Thomas Francis Meagher is a well-known figure here in Montana. After serving as a general in the Civil War, he made his way to Montana to be thrust into a territorial governor position not once, but twice. His statue in front of the capitol reminds the Irish descendants and all folks of Meagher’s fighting Irish spirit and what the colors of the Irish flag represent. The green for the Irish Catholics, the orange for the protestants, and the white for the union and peace between the two.
“There will be some celebration, but, you know, it's more a day of reflection, of thinking about our roots, our heritage, our faith and what that means to us and what we need to do going forward,” says Flaherty.