Giant day of fun ahead as whole country ready to paint the town green
Olympic silver medallist Annalise Murphy will lead the Dublin's St Patrick's Day parade today as Grand Marshal, with over half a million spectators expected to travel to line the streets of the city to join in the fun.
"Ireland You Are…" is the theme for the country's biggest parade which organisers have promised will be a celebration of "a culturally diverse, complex and brave society, notwithstanding its challenges".
Dublin's parade kicks off at 12pm in Parnell Square, with a new extended route now taking in a viewing point on Kevin Street in the south inner city.
More than 3,000 people are taking part in the huge gathering, which this year includes marching bands from America, France, Germany, Switzerland and the Bahamas.
Festival pageant company Spraoi was last night putting the finishing touches to its Festival Parade floats and colourful costumes. Their creations included a bearded giant and horned creatures brandishing clubs.
Susan Kirby, St Patrick's Festival CEO, said they were delighted to be delivering a "spectacular festival" this year, adding: "St Patrick's arrival always heralds a fantastic sense of joy and excitement ahead of the action-packed four days of the festival."
And it's set to be a bonanza weekend for hoteliers and publicans alike, with 100,000 tourists making their way to Ireland for the celebrations.
Parades are taking place in towns and cities across the country, with festivities set to continue through until Sunday.
In the Galway parade, adventurer Gavin Hennigan is onboard as special guest for the day. The Galway parade starts at 11.30am and will be led by spectacle theatre company Macnas.
Cork city is celebrating the theme of 'Cork - A City of Community, Culture & Commerce' and promised spectators "a carnival of colour, music, pageantry and comic fun".
The parade will celebrate 100 years of the Ford company in Cork and celebrity chef Rachel Allen is the Grand Marshal.
In Limerick, the theme for participants is 'Our stories, this is where we belong' and in Belfast, the parade will leave City Hall at noon and make its way to Custom House Square, with numerous community groups taking part.
Waterford's parade starts at 1pm with a theme of 'Do it the Green way', celebrating the opening of the Waterford Greenway.
Tonight also sees some of Ireland's top comedians including Dara O Briain, Tommy Tiernan and Jason Byrne make their way to the 3 Arena to perform at Paddy's Night in support of Comic Relief.
Tomorrow sees a Treasure Hunt along the banks of the Liffey in Dublin, and the world's largest céilí with over 9,000 dancers at Earlsfort Terrace in the city.
Met Éireann has forecast a cool start for St Patrick's Day, with rain extending across the country throughout the day.
Members of the public attending the parade have been advised to plan ahead, dress appropriately for the weather and where possible to us public transport.
Visit www.transportforireland.ie for details.
For information and updates on parades and events, visit www.stpatricksfestival.ie.