Santa Claus has completed his epic Christmas journey on schedule, sources close to him have said.

Minister for Transport Shane Ross granted permission for Santa and Mrs Claus, their sleigh and reindeer to enter Irish airspace from 5pm on Christmas Eve.

"My aviation chiefs have been in touch with Santa and assured him that there will be no obstacle to his entering Irish air space as soon as it gets dark this Christmas Eve," Mr Ross said.

"Santa's sleigh has been checked for air worthiness and is fully approved for round-the-world travel," he added.

While not usually a member of Santa's travelling party, Mr Ross said he understood that this year Mrs Claus will be working as chief navigator. 

Even though he was given permission to enter Irish airspace from early evening, it is believed he did not do so until much later in order to avoid detection.

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His Irish stops - which exceeded one million homes - came towards the end of a journey that began with stops in the southern Pacific early on Christmas Eve, Irish time.

From the islands of Fiji, Tonga and Samoa, he travelled across New Zealand and Australia before continuing to travel west.

Having covered Asia, Africa and Europe he then crossed the Atlantic to North and South America.

According to the US and Canadian defense agency, NORAD, Santa Claus made it home to the North Pole by 11am.

His last major stop was Hawaii. NORAD added that Santa had delivered more than seven billion gifts throughout his journey.

According to well-positioned Santa sources he will unwind with a hot chocolate and a mince pie, or two, before taking stock of another completed Christmas.

Read more: Santa's journey helped by quantum teleporting and Einstein's theories

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