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We should take inspiration from our volunteers -- Mary

President Mary McAleese has paid tribute to volunteers around the world who make St Patrick's Day a global festival.

Ms McAleese said while Ireland is beset by economic difficulties, people should take hope and inspiration from past problems transcended.

She said across the world Irish people and their friends will join in joyful, fun-filled celebrations of the country's great heritage and fascinating culture.

"It's a day that reminds us of the enduring solidarity of the global Irish family, the strength it gives us and the pride," added Ms McAleese.

The President said it was volunteers at home and abroad who fly the flag for Ireland, not only on St Patrick's Day but all year round.



soul

"They are the backbone of our country and they are its heart and its soul," she added.

Ireland's bishops also wished their faithful at home and abroad a joyful and peaceful St Patrick's Day.

"In 2011 we are in the midst of an economic recession which has resulted in unemployment and emigration for many individuals and families in Ireland," they said in a statement.

"The plight of Patrick, himself a migrant, has been faced by many Irish people who have struggled to live and integrate into new cultures.

"Let us remain in our prayers those who are suffering at this time."

hnews@herald.ie