DUBLIN will host the biggest ever St Patrick's Festival this year, with many events organised to coincide with the Gathering.
More than 8,000 people are expected to take part in a 'People's Parade', which will lead the traditional march through the city on March 17.
Already, 5,000 people from 46 countries have booked their place, with space left for around 3,000 more.
Tourism Minister Leo Varadkar officially launched the event and said it would involve the greatest ever number of overseas participants.
In keeping with the Gathering, the theme for this year's festival has been chosen as: 'Great Things Happen When We Get Together.'
"We're really fortunate as a country to have a festival that's celebrated all over the world, but the best place to be for it is here in Ireland," Mr Varadkar said.
He said the Gathering would have a positive impact on the festival and estimated that it could be worth more than €50m to the economy. The festivities will run from March 14–18.
The legendary traditional Irish music group Stockton's Wing have reformed for the event and will perform at the National Concert Hall on St Patrick's Day.
Most of the planned events are free and for five days iconic buildings around Dublin will be bathed in green.
The first St Patrick's festival was held over a single day and night on March 17, 1996, with a live audience of around 430,000. Since then it has grown to become a five-day extravaganza and in 2001 was watched by more than one million people. Edelle Moss, acting CEO for the festival, said that people could expect "lots of wonderful street theatre", as well as music and dancing.