Thousands of homes in Ireland were left without power as gale-force winds lashed the country.

Ferry services to Britain were cancelled and flights delayed as the near hurricane force winds hit the coast.

Ireland’s electricity service confirmed that over 5,000 houses were without power on Friday night, the majority in the West.

And weather service Met Eireann warned that the last weekend of 2012 will be a blustery one after a mild Christmas.

Met Éireann issued a weather warning as wind speeds approached 80 mph.

Power outages and fallen trees were reported across the country with more damage predicted into Sunday.

Weather forecaster David Rogers told the Irish Times: “Saturday will see a mixture of sun and showers but the remainder of the weekend will be changeable.

“It will not be as mild as it has been the past few days and the temperatures are set to drop. The wind coming from the north and west will make it feel colder.

“There could be a lull in winds over the weekend as temperatures are set to drop to between 5-8 degrees with frost expected in most parts.”

Irish Coast Guard chief Declan Geoghegan said: “Severe weather such as this brings not only high winds, but the risk of heavy downpours and the potential for spot flooding.”

Ireland’s Department of Transport warned drivers to be aware of the conditions and advised people to keep away from cliffs, piers and any other coastal areas.

Rogers added that the weather is set to improve on New Year’s Day from wet and windy to cooler temperatures.

Ireland braces itself for bad weatherGoogle Images