THE mayor of a small town in France and his fellow councillors wasted no time getting into the party spirit as they arrived at Dublin Airport to celebrate "la fete de St Patrick."
Francis Gazeau and 18 of his fellow countrymen were among thousands of people from around the world who flew into the capital last night to celebrate St Patrick's Day as part of The Gathering.
For Mr Gazeau and his compatriots from the town of Cadaujac, near Bordeaux, it will be a special visit to mark The Gathering.
The town is twinned with Tramore, Co Waterford, and the Cadaujac crew were looking forward to meeting their Irish counterparts as part of a special St Patrick's Day weekend celebration there called "Return of the Earls."
Speaking in his native tongue, Mr Gazeau told the Irish Independent that he believes the future of Europe lies in greater links between European nations.
And he said that taking part in each other's social, cultural and festive events is a great way to get to know each other better and to pass on those relationships to future generations.
And they wasted no time getting friendly with "leprechauns" Gerry and Sheila Smyth, from Donegal, who stood waiting for their own visitors from the UK, dressed in Darby O'Gill outfits.
"We said we'd be dressed as leprechauns but they didn't think we were serious," said Sheila.
In fact, their guests, Pat and Triona Corbett from Essex in England, initially walked straight past them before bursting into laughter when they recognised their friends.
It was also a joyful homecoming for the Farrell family from Athy, Co Kildare, who now live in Peterborough, England.
Tommy Farrell, his sons Conor (18 months) and Kian (4), and wife Joanne were greeted by Tommy's brother Daniel for a weekend of craic to celebrate their mother's 60th as well St Patrick's Day.
"My birthday is the 18th and my Ma's is the 19th so it's nice to all be here for Paddy's Day," Tommy said.
An estimated 225,000 people will be arriving and departing at the airport over the weekend to take in St Patrick's Day celebrations here and abroad.