The Force is with us as the world joins in the party
Tens of thousands from five continents watched the St Patrick's Day parade in the capital yesterday where they got a glimpse of Star Wars actor Mark Hamill.
Families gathered on the streets of Dublin from as early as 9am - three hours before the country's biggest parade got under way - to capture the best place to see the star, famous for playing Luke Skywalker in the movie franchise.
Mother-of-four Vanessa Murphy got up at 6.50am with her children, including son, Eoghan (8) to help him get the chance to see his hero before the crowds descended.
"Eoghan just loves Star Wars and Luke Skywalker, so it was so important for him to get a good place to see him," Vanessa said.
The mother ensured Eoghan and his siblings, Aaron (4) and Aoife (11) were all well wrapped up as the temperatures dropped to 3C and snow showers fell.
The family travelled from Ratoath, Co Meath, and lapped up every minute of the party atmosphere. "The children wanted to come here because Dublin's parade is the biggest in the world and they love the floats here.
"This is their day to celebrate they're Irish and we wouldn't want to be anywhere else."
Hamill (66) was in fine celebratory form yesterday, as he attended the event with wife, Marilou. The star, wearing a smart camel coat and flat cap, proudly wore shamrock as he continued his ongoing love affair with Ireland.
Hamill, who filmed some of the most recent Star Wars scenes in Kerry and Donegal, was honoured with the title of inaugural International Guest of Honour at the festival.
One fan was delighted as she caught him on camera with his wife as they travelled in the parade in an opulent baby blue Rolls-Royce. Carrying a Star Wars poster, the fan was soon spotted by the actor, who signed a love heart in the air with his hands towards her before his wife snapped a photo of the female fan.
Friends Trine Brok-Joergensen (28) and Majse Hansen (29) jetted in from Denmark for the parade, and Majse used St Patrick's Day as an excuse to mark a special milestone in her life.
"When I was a child, I made the goal of reaching 30 countries by the time I was 30, so now Ireland is the last country on my list," she said.
"I'm 30 in a couple of weeks and I thought what a great excuse to come to Dublin for St Patrick's Day. I started in Sweden and Norway, then I travelled round Asia, across the US. And now I'm here and I love it."
Margo Mitchell travelled from Sligo with her children, Keri (14), Oran (15), Finn (12) and Ceola (17) along with husband Mike.
And the parade, which carried the theme of 'Home' this year, also marked a special family time for the Mitchells.
"Ceola will be going off to college next year, so we wanted to make sure we had a really special family weekend," Margo said.
The 3km parade ran from Parnell Street to St Stephen's Green in the city, with 3,000 participants helping to create a party atmosphere. A significant Garda presence was evident but there was a very family-orientated atmosphere throughout.
Susan Kirby, CEO of St Patrick's Festival, said: "It's almost like March has turned into Ireland month. We came out of Cheltenham with huge success, the rugby is on and we're hoping for the best for Ireland, it's the St Patrick's Festival, the Taoiseach is in America, our ministers are representing Ireland over the world - it feels a buoyant time in Ireland and every year the festival grows and the audience grows."
Game of Thrones actor Liam Cunningham, the parade's grand marshal, said: "Today is a great day to be Irish, or wherever you're from, coming over to celebrate our day with us here. The reason I'm so grateful to do this is because I was on my dad's shoulders 50 years ago and my three kids were on my shoulders too on the corner of Abbey Street, so I was astonished when I was asked."
"I'm incredibly grateful - it's a magnificent honour that I do not take lightly and it gave me an opportunity to put a smile on my mother's face. She is incredibly proud, it's not often you get the opportunity to do that for your mam."