Millions set for global St Patrick's Day party
Good weather the key to record parade attendances across country
AN ESTIMATED two million people, almost half the island's population, will honour St Patrick today with a dizzying array of parades, festivals, concerts, fireworks and even sea displays.
Rugby pundit George Hook, who is Grand Marshal of the Cork parade, is insisting Ireland moves on from the crushing of Six Nations grand slam hopes in Cardiff last weekend - and ignores the fact that St Patrick was most likely Welsh-born.
The biggest event will again be Dublin's giant parade which this year boasts the theme 'Celebrate Now'.
Comedian Brendan O'Carroll, aka Mrs Brown, is the Grand Marshal for the 12pm event and the organisers are hoping the forecast of good weather will drive the parade attendance to more than 600,000.
Dublin, like Cork, has made its parade the centrepiece of a gala four-day festival of events.
In Cork these events include street entertainment, a festival food market, a special fleadh in Cork Opera House and historical tours. Mr Hook, who is a Cork native, will lead the 1pm St Patrick's Day parade alongside Lord Mayor Councillor Mary Shields with a predicted attendance of over 50,000.
The west Cork village of Courtmacsherry will have a seven metre (21ft) replica of the World War I liner, RMS Lusitania, as the star of its parade to commemorate the centenary of the ship's sinking off the Cork coast by a German U-boat.
Courtmacsherry also proudly boasts the only St Patrick's Day land and sea parades.
One of Ireland's largest events will be staged in Limerick where the organisers are hoping for an attendance of more than 70,000.
The parade will be boosted by the participation of many bands who took part in last weekend's International Marching Band competition.
In Galway, street entertainers and theatre groups will feature in an exciting parade programme.
The event, which has a theme of multiculturalism, begins at 11.30am and the highlights this year will include Russian folk singing, samba dancers and street entertainment aimed at children.
In Kerry, major parades are planned for Killarney, Tralee, Dingle, Kenmare, Killorglin and Castleisland. Kenmare's parade has a special family theme with an unique children's party being staged in the town square from 4pm to 7pm.
In Killorglin, the organisers decided to focus on Ireland's rich Celtic legacy with a 1pm parade boasting the theme of 'Myths and Legends'.
Dundalk will focus on Louth's proud associations with some of Ireland's greatest legends with a parade theme of 'Myth, Magic and Miracles.'
The 1pm parade will also pay tribute to reigning FAI league champions Dundalk FC.
In Kilkenny, the emphasis is firmly on traditional music, song and dance with the St Patrick's Day parade a key event in the Marble City's Trad-Fest.
Fáilte Ireland said St Patrick's Day has become one of the single most important marketing tools for the domestic tourism sector.
Fáilte Ireland chief executive Seán Quinn said the St Patrick's Day events form a vital part of a broad range of attractions including the new 2,500km 'Wild Atlantic Way' to better position Ireland to attract overseas visitors.
In Tipperary and Clare, the legends of Brian Boru continue to underpin the local tourism industries with both Killaloe and Ballina using St Patrick's Day parades to anchor festivals to honour Ireland's most famous High King.
Legends of a different kind will fire the imaginations in the Cork town of Ballincollig which aims to set a new Guinness world record for the greatest number of Disney's Princess Elsa characters in a single place.
The Princess Elsa record attempt will take place at 2.30pm before the town's parade at 3pm.