President McAleese has said that St Patrick's Day is particularly special this year because it falls during Ireland's presidency of the European Union when many new members are about to join the European family of nations.

In her St Patrick's Day message, the president said that Ireland welcomed the new member states and looked forward to a future of friendship and fellowship with them and their peoples.

She said that St Patrick was a great European whose vision was not bounded by narrow horizons.

Mrs McAleese said that Ireland continued to inspire other nations with its legacy of resilience, versatility and enthusiasm.

She said that the Irish people's greatest gift was their openness to new experiences and genuine curiosity about other cultures.