Party starts as St Patrick's Day events get green light
Limerick party-lovers were last night glassy-eyed and breathless after watching the city's skyline explode in a blaze of colour for the annual National Lottery Skyfest which kicked off this year's St Patrick's Day Festival.
Keen to show the world that, despite our economic woes, we still know how to party, lots of other exciting events including treasure hunts, comedy events and funfairs, will take place around the country in the lead up to Wednesday's big celebrations.
From midday today, Merrion Square in Dublin will be transformed into a playground for children and adults alike, with entertainment provided by the street theatre groups and musical acts which over the years have proved to be a festival highlight.
As a prelude to the main event -- Wednesday's parade -- St Stephen's Green will host a Ceili Mor on Tuesday night, in an event that will celebrate all things Irish.
On Wednesday, the city will be swamped in a flurry of green, white and orange for the official St Patrick's Day parade. This year's parade, which is expected to attract more than 650,000 people, is taking inspiration from the theme 'Extraordinary World', with those taking part being asked to interpret it in their own way.
"It's our 15th birthday this year so we're celebrating in style", says festival CEO Susan Kirby. "We've over 2,000 performers taking part. We're hoping to produce something that people can be very proud of and really enjoy."
Sporting legend Packie Bonner is this year's Grand Marshal, while rugby international Keith Earls will lead the St Patrick's Day parade in Limerick.
On the evening of St Patrick's Day, traditional music group Kila will play in the Olympia Theatre in Dublin, while Donal Lunny is curating a gig in the National Concert Hall.
While it's still very early to give a precise weather forecast for Wednesday, Met Eireann is predicting a mixed day, with cloud cover and a chance of showers.
The gardai are appealing to motorists to make a special effort to drive responsibly during this period. Over the St Patrick's Day period last year (from March 13-17 inclusive), gardai recorded 379 incidents of driving while intoxicated, 2,706 incidents of speeding, 213 incidents of non-use of seatbelt and 320 incidents of driving while holding a mobile phone.
This year's St Patrick's Day celebrations are not exempt from recessionary restraints.
"We are subject to funding cuts this year", says Susan Kirby. "We have had to work very innovatively to respond to that, and we're confident that we're presenting something that's of a similar scale and quality."
While, hundreds of thousands are anticipated to be revelling in the festivities on the country's streets, many millions more will be tuning in to the live broadcast on RTE One and the live streaming on www.rte.ie.
This is the first year the internet streaming can be accessed by an international web audience.
Find more information on www.stpatricksfestival.ie