The Catholic primate of Ireland, Archbishop Sean Brady, and the Church of Ireland primate, Archbishop Robin Eames, said that the search for peace in the British-ruled province of northern Ireland is at a very critical stage. At midday Mass in St. Patrick's Cathedral in Armagh, Archbishop Brady said the conditions now exist to bring about a whole new chapter in the life of the islands of Ireland and Britain. The archbishop said St. Patrick would have joined in condemning those who planned and prepared the weapons of murder: the arsenals of arms, the bombs, and the mortars. He hoped that the peace process might bring an end to the ancient hostilities and that the process of reconciliation might begin in earnest. He said those extremists who had attempted to wreck progress must not be allowed to succeed.
And at a service in the Church of Ireland cathedral in Armagh, Archbishop Eames said that the next few weeks would be crucial to the peace process. He said that everyone needed the courage shown by St. Patrick, to reach out into uncharted waters and to venture where it is not easy to see the result.
Meanwhile in the center of Belfast more than 10,000 people gathered for a unique cross-community St. Patrick's Day parade. For the first time in its history the parade left the Catholic area of west Belfast and crossed into the city's center. Military-style bands, political slogans, flags, and speeches were all banned, and the parade was limited to traditional Irish music and dancing.