A toddler, known in Limerick as "the boy who could fly" warmed hearts in his native Limerick city tonight as he switched on the Christmas lights amid freezing temperatures, writes David Raleigh.
Little Neil Shanahan (2) miraculously survived a 70 ft fall from the top of the Limerick Strand Hotel on July 2 last.
Despite a few minor injuries Neil was home again after spending a little over a month in hospital.
His parents Martina and Mike beamed as they admitted this Christmas will be the best they've ever had.
"I'm not sure we can possibly have a better Christmas than this. We are here tonight at the invitation of Limerick City and County Council, turning on the Christmas lights when it could have been so different," Martina said.
“It could have been the worst Christmas imaginable but it’s turned out to be the one we are most grateful for because Neil is with us."
“It does make us think, at the same time, of those who have not been so lucky and our hearts really go out to them," she added.
Mike said adventurous Neil, who rode a lift up to the top floor of the Strand hotel before falling over the rooftop balcony but lived to tell the tale, lapped up tonight's festivities.
“We were delighted to be invited in for this. It was an incredible experience tonight. Neil, having had so many medics around him during his recovery, is well used to attention and he lapped it all up. He loved it," Mike added.
The ‘Light up Limerick’ switching on ceremony took place on the city's main thoroughfare O’Connell Street.
Mayor Kieran O’Hanlon, who helped Neil kick start the Christmas cheer remarked: “We’re delighted to have had this incredible young man with us tonight. His story is one that gives us all hope and Christmas is a great time for hope. To see the smile on his face and his parents’ face was fantastic."
Over 4,000 people warmed up the atmosphere despite freezing fog and below zero temperatures and special snow cannons sprayed the crowd under a dazzling fireworks display.
"It's what Christmas is all about. What an end to Neil's story and what a great start to Christmas in Limerick," added Limerick Arts Officer Shelia Deegan.
As the fireworks faded into the fog, and the crowd dispersed, little Neil and his parents linked arms as they headed home, all together again.