The 2 year-old boy who miraculously survived a sixth story balcony fall in Limerick in July was on hand for the switching on of the city’s festive lights tonight with his parents admitting that it will be their best Christmas yet.
Neil Shanahan and his family were special guests of Limerick City and County Council as the biggest ever Christmas lights display, titled ‘Light Up Limerick’, was switched on by him and Mayor Kieran O’Hanlon.
Said Neil’s mother Martina: “I’m not sure we can possibly have a better Christmas than this. We are here tonight at the invitation of Limerick City and County Council, turning on the Christmas lights when it could have been so different.
“It could have been the worst Christmas imaginable but it’s turned out to be the one we are most grateful for because Neil is with us.
“It does make us think, at the same time, of those who have not been so lucky and our hearts really go out to them.”
As for the moment when the lights were turned on, Neil’s father Mike said that the 2year old lapped it up.
“We were delighted to be invited in for this,” said Neil’s father Mike. “It was an incredible experience tonight. Neil, having had so many medics around him during his recovery, is well used to attention and he lapped it all up. He loved it.”
The ‘Light up Limerick’ switching on ceremony took place on O’Connell Street.
Said Limerick City and County Council Mayor Kieran O’Hanlon: “We’re delighted to have had this incredible young man with us tonight. His story is one that gives us all hope and Christmas is a great time for hope. To see the smile on his face and his parents’ face was fantastic.
“The crowd was huge and there was an amazing buzz. Limerick is really the place to be right now in so many respects. It’s a great start to what is going to perhaps the busiest Christmas ever in Limerick. We’ve decorated it accordingly, putting our biggest ever spend into the lights display and no better boy to switch all this on than Neil,” he said.
Over 4,000 people braved the cold to throng into the city centre for the light-switching on ceremony on O’Connell Streeet.
Despite the cold weather, spirits were high as the crowds were entertained by street performers and bands/singers, with soprano soloist sensation Sinéad O’Brien, Unity Gospel Choir and Jason Hennessy warming them up ahead of the magic moment when the lights switched on.
Snow cannons created a real festive spirit, while the skies also lit up at the end of the event with a dazzling pyrotechnics display.
Santa himself was also present and a big hit.
Tonight was the starting point of a five week celebration run by Limerick City and County Council in partnership with Limerick Chamber. The programme also includes, among other items (please see www.limerick.ie/christmas for full details):
- Musical Treats on O’Connell Street featuring carol singers, bands and choirs in the Urban Garden outside Penney’s from 3pm to 6p.m. on the 3rd,4th, 9th, 10th, 11th December
- Christmas Craft Fair - at Bedford Row on Saturday and Sunday, 3rd and 4thDecember from 12-7pm
- Santa’s Post Box - on Bedford Row where elves will be busy collecting children’s wishes and dreams and where they can post that all important letter to Santa in plenty of time for Christmas. There will also be seasonal workshops hosting a feast of activities including Christmas tree decoration making, wrapping gifts, baking and story-telling on 9th December from 2-7pm and the 10th and 11th December from 12-6pm.
- Limerick on Ice – Ireland’s longest established ice-ring is back by hugely popular demand in Arthurs Quay Park
- The Enchanted Christmas Carriage - take in the magic of Limerick at Christmas from the comfort of festive horse drawn carriage
- A host of live music at Dolan’s and Live at the Big Top
- Ten Days of Christmas themed markets at the Limerick Milk Market – 15th to 24th December
- Christmas at King John’s Castle and a host of magical Santas and pantos across Limerick
- Shannon Airport Christmas Racing Festival – Monday 26th to Thursday 29th December
Limerick Chamber CEO James Ring: “We have much to celebrate in Limerick today as it’s a city very much on the up and Limerick City and County Council, supported by the Chamber, is making sure that the rise in sentiment and confidence here permeates Christmas also. Whether it’s coming to shop or socialise in Limerick this Christmas, people will definitely get an air of celebration and it started brilliantly tonight with the switching on of the lights.”