Visit our special St. Patrick's Day section for more news, recipes, Irish history, traditions and "craic"

St Patrick’s Day has arrived early on both sides of the world as the Irish Diaspora gets the national celebrations underway.

Hundreds of thousands of people have attended parades in Britain and Australia ahead of Saturday.

Manchester in England saw record crowds attend the early St Patrick’s Day festivities while Brisbane in Australia celebrated in the sunshine.

More than a hundred thousand Irishmen, women and children, for the day at least, lined the streets of Manchester for the city’s annual parade.

Organiser Brian Kennedy was delighted with the turn-out and the mild weather.

“They say it rains in Manchester, but we always seem to have the luck of the Irish,” said Kennedy.

The forthcoming London Olympics provided the theme for the Birmingham parade in England’s midlands when more than 50,000 turned up to join the fun.

Thousands also lined the two mile route in the Australian city of Brisbane as the St Patrick’s Day festivities got underway in perfect weather conditions down under.

Stilt-walker Leila Cuttle helped to entertain the crowd. “We are not Irish at all but for this big occasion we are Irish in spirit, or should I say spirits,” Cuttle told reports.

Queensland Irish Association Eamon Gaffney and Australia’s new Irish ambassador Noel White were the guests of honour in Brisbane.

“Our city is proud to have the first parade,” said Gaffney. “We always hold our parade on the Saturday before St Patrick’s Day.”

Ambassador White delivered a political message as he told local media that Ireland is battling through the recession after visiting the parade.

White said: “People have been so welcoming and this is a brilliant parade in Brisbane. It’s a great credit to them.

“Brisbane is the first of many parades and clearly I’ve hit on the right time for attending such key events which are important for Ireland abroad.

“This is a huge platform for Ireland internationally, here in Australia, especially where there is a fantastic Irish community spanning several generations.

“The embassy will be supporting and attending all the major parades and next weekend Minister for Justice Alan Shatter will be here for parades in Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra, as well as one in Auckland New Zealand.

“It’s a great time to showcase Ireland at its absolute best. It’s a message of confidence and one that we are back in business.”

Brisbane police superintendent Ray Brownhill said: “In a true Irish spirit the parade went off without a hitch and almost 1,000 people were marching while countless thousands were cheering and watching, three and four deep on the footpaths.

“It was a wonderful atmosphere and the public behaved themselves impeccably in the great Irish spirit.”

Visit our special St. Patrick's Day section for more news, recipes, Irish history, traditions and "craic"