Star Wars hero Mark Hammill will be the first ever guest of honour at Dublin’s St Patrick’s Day festival.
The Luke Skywalker star filmed his scenes for the most recent two Star Wars movies at Skellig Michael, off the west coast of Ireland.
He will be back in the country on the 17th March to join in the St Patrick’s Day celebrations in the capital, where he will view the parade from the Presidential stand.
Ciara Sugrue, Failte Ireland’s Head of Festivals, said: “The Force will truly be with us on March 17 and we are delighted to hear that Mark Hamill will be joining us as the first ever St Patrick’s Festival International Guest of Honour.
“Since filming Star Wars: The Force Awakens in Kerry, Mark has been a great ambassador for Ireland and it is amazing to have someone of such universal – even galactic – acclaim in this new honorary role.”
With so many people of Irish descent around the world, the idea of an international guest of honour has been in the pipeline for a number of years.
It is a great chance to celebrate Irish success around the world. Hamill has traced his Irish roots back to Kilkenny, where his great-grandmother Elizabeth Keating left for America as a teenager. He also possibly has separate family connections to Donegal.
St Patrick’s Festival CEO, Susan Kirby said: “The role of International Guest of Honour is something we have been considering for a few years.
“There are so many examples of Irish people and the diaspora achieving eminence across many different art forms and disciplines worldwide.
“Many of these have a special connection with Ireland and we want to celebrate and recognise this.
“Mark has a special affinity to Ireland through his filming of Star Wars and family history and has done much for our film industry.
“We’re looking forward to welcoming him back ‘home’ to celebrate our national holiday and St Patrick’s Festival with us.”
Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said: “We in Tourism Ireland are extremely grateful to Mark for his wonderful comments about the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland.”
“Our Star Wars campaign, including our films with Mark Hamill praising the beauty and people of Ireland, has been seen by over 8 million people around the world – whetting peoples’ appetites to come and visit the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland.”
Sugrue added: “Failte Ireland continues to invest significantly in the St Patrick’s Festival, an event which not only attracts tens of thousands of international visitors but also showcases Ireland as a fantastic tourist destination to global media.
“With this year’s special guest, we will have an extra bit of magic for this wonderful showcase for an Irish welcome.”
Written by Michael Kehoe @michaelcalling