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Maureen still a star as she returns to her roots

A SPRIGHTLY Maureen O'Hara returned to Dublin last night and declared: "Be proud of where you came from."

The 90-year-old actress wooed crowds in her native Ranelagh as she made a rare public appearance to mark Culture Night.

She told a delighted audience that it was "wonderful to be back" in the town where she was born.

And the Irish-American who starred in the original Miracle on 34th Street was soon on her feet after being introduced to the crowd.

"They told me I could sit down if I wanted to but you don't like someone saying that to you so I'll stand," she laughed.

"I could stand here and talk to you all night but I don't know whether you would thank me for it. My last message to you is always try and do something with your life and be proud of yourself.

"I hope God gives me enough years to come back many times more and visit 'dear old dirty Dublin' like we used to call it when we were kids," Ms O'Hara said.

She also recalled her time at school with the Irish Sisters of Charity and saved a special mention for Gay Byrne, who she described as a "good student".

Ms O'Hara was greeted by a large crowd when she returned to where she grew up to launch a local arts festival. She was born Maureen Fitzsimons in Beechwood Avenue, Ranelagh.

Meanwhile, all over the country, people visited cathedrals, galleries, theatres and other free cultural venues which opened late. An estimated half a million people did something to mark Culture Night 2010.

A record 132 venues offered a diverse mix with highlights including a tented street party and guided tours at the Irish Museum of Modern Art; readings from renowned literary figures such as Dermot Bolger; and a performance by the 18-piece big band Dublin City Jazz Orchestra at the Central Bank Plaza.

Thousands of people viewed The Book of Kells, and the Guinness Storehouse in St James's Gate also proved a huge draw for the crowds.

Dermot McLaughlin, CEO Of Temple Bar Cultural Trust, said the city was alive to the sound of culture, as people, families and children took to the streets.

"Culture Night is Ireland's largest platform on which to showcase the country's strongest asset, our culture -- in all its diverse forms," he said.