A spectacular package of events was put together to mark the end of the year of The Gathering and to greet 2014 with high hopes of a continued upswing in the tourist industry’s fortunes.
Dublin city centre was turned into one giant party zone for the event dubbed the Ultimate Gathering, with a giant stage erected in College Green for the Countdown Concert headlined by Madness, while St Stephen’s Green was taken over by the People’s Procession of Light.
This was the third year of the Three NYE Dublin Festival which last year earned the city a place in the top five places to be for New Year’s Eve as recommended by the traveller’s bible, Lonely Planet.
And while the on-off storms that battered the country for the past week had organisers, Fáilte Ireland and Dublin City Council, sweating late into the afternoon, the forecasters were confident the only swaying, rocking and creaking at midnight would come from the thousands of revellers.
The shenanigans got under way at 6pm with stilt walkers, dancers and other illuminated performers leading the People’s Procession of Light from College Green to St Stephen’s Green accompanied by hundreds of children holding lanterns they’d made at free workshops throughout the day.
YouTube sensations Seo Linn, who have been busy turning chart- topping singles into Irish language hits, were got the Countdown Concert under way at 8.30pm.
A line-up of The Strypes, Ryan Sheridan, MKS and Madness was assembled to follow from then until midnight with tv personalities Laura Whitmore, Daithi Ó Se and Sinead Kennedy drafted in to keep order on the proceedings.
The general madness continues today with the Big Brunch in Temple Bar enticing people to high-kick into the New Year with an open air céilí, children’s entertainment and theatrical performances all fuelled by a sense of fun and good food from a variety of local producers’ stalls.
And for those who want to be a better version of themselves in 2014, there is an invitation to share the good intentions by hanging them on a special new year’s resolution tree.
Resolve is certainly not lacking in the tourism sector which is marching into 2014 determined to build on the momentum generated by The Gathering promotion.
The industry has just recorded its best year since 2009 with almost seven million overseas visitors making trips here and spending more than €4bn in the process.
The Gathering alone is estimated to have brought a €170m boost to the Irish economy, and while the promotion is not running in 2014 tourism chiefs believe the official publicity combined with the word-of-mouth effect generated worldwide by the hundreds of local events will have made overseas travellers put Ireland on the top of their list for their holidays this year.
It was a New Year’s Eve party to end all parties — and to kick-start Limerick’s year as City of Culture.
Cranberries star Dolores O’Riordan led a night of song and music which started with a procession of light snaking its way through streets and by illuminated river floats along the Shannon into King John’s Castle.
Over the coming 12 months, it is anticipated up to 1m people will participate in the huge city of culture programme of events which will feature Riverdance performances and musical celebrities such as James Galway.
Up to 200 different shows have been organised spanning all aspects of the arts.
Limerick is the first city in the Republic to be chosen as a National City of Culture and the event will be staged every four years.
City of Culture 2014 chairman Pat Cox said: “Last night was a marvellous beginning to a programme which aims to unlock and reveal Limerick’s cultural potential. The City of Culture will turn the city into a year-long stage, hosting acts, arts, and events ranging from local, community-based to international acts which will perform for the first time in Ireland. The edgy, urban, and contemporary will blend with the traditional to reveal the rich cultural diversity and heritage of the Treaty City.”
Last night’s celebrations were televised live by RTÉ. Thousands took vantage points along the city’s three bridges to view the spectacular firework show.
Mayor of Limerick, Cllr Kathleen Leddin, said the National Year of Culture opens up huge opportunities for the city.
“It will attract huge numbers to the city over the course of the year. Limerick is going through a wonderful renaissance in many respects with UL recently announcing a huge investment in a new campus in the city centre and huge developments on the jobs front.”