By Cillian Sherlock, PA
A sea of green made up of half a million people is to descend on Dublin City centre for a St Patrick’s Day parade that organisers are predicting will be “the biggest and best”.
Celebrations are also set to take place across the island of Ireland with massive crowds turning out to mark March 17th in towns and cities.
Many more will watch Dublin’s 2023 parade on television, which will involve 4,200 performers including marching bands, aerial acrobats and vibrant costumes.
The parade is centred around the theme of “ONE” to “shine a light on all the goodness that surrounds us” by protecting and embracing global traditions, culture and heritage.
The parade is due to start at Parnell Square, snaking its way through some of the city’s most popular thoroughfares like O’Connell Street and College Green before culminating on Kevin Street.
The Republic of Ireland women’s football team was chosen as this year’s grand marshal and is represented by manager Vera Pauw and other famous faces from the team’s past and present.
Originally from the Netherlands, Ms Pauw said she was “blown away” that she could lead the parade.
“The thought that I, as a foreigner, could lead the team out and represent the team – is a highlight of my life”, she said.
“I’m absolutely delighted that Ireland has let me in to their celebrations of this magic day,” she added.
American actor Patrick Duffy, known for Dallas and Man From Atlantis, said he was discovering his heritage through his role as the international guest of honour.
“The beauty of my feeling of being in this parade is the coming together of the heritage that I have, that I’m discovering on a daily basis by being here,” he said.
“Return is the key word that people feel when they come to Ireland, the sense is that you’re returning somewhere,” he added.
“I feel a part of something grander than any of us at individuals,” Mr Duffy said.
Mr Duffy was born on St Patrick’s Day and celebrated his 74th birthday by blowing out the candles on a large green cake.
He made a simple birthday wish: “No rain!”
His wish clashed with national forecaster Met Éireann which predicted scattered outbreaks of rain and drizzle, including isolated thunderstorms in the west of the country.
St Patrick’s Festival chief executive Richard Tierney said there would be 50,000 guests attending Festival Quarter for a day of traditional Irish music, “ceol agus craic”.
“I think this year’s parade is definitely going to be the biggest and the best,” he said.
Thousands of people will also line streets of major towns and cities of in Northern Ireland for parades.
Large celebrations are planned in Belfast, Newry, Derry, and Downpatrick.
Organisers have arranged guided tours and live music across the region.