Tuesday, September 26, 2023

2023 Festival is going to be the best one ever!

By Patrick Muldoon

The launch of Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann 2023 took place on Saturday evening last, 20 May, at the Market Square in Mullingar.

Musicians and singers of all ages entertained the gathering that had assembled for the launch with a beautiful rendition of traditional Irish music and song. A host of invited dignitaries attended including the Rose of Tralee Rachel Duffy.

This year’s Fleadh takes place from the 6 to 14 August and Máirín Uí Mhuirí, who was MC for the evening, said: “We’re delighted that it’s back here again after a very successful year last year. We hope to see the streets lined with plenty of musicians, volunteers and spectators again this year.”

In his opening remarks Cllr Aengus O’Rourke, Cathaoirleach of Westmeath County Council said he was delighted to participate in the launch of “the world’s largest annual celebration of Irish music, song, culture and dance, Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann 2023, that we’re all so much looking forward to.”

He stated that last year’s Fleadh was “a resounding success”, pointing to how it has been described on numerous occasions as “the best Fleadh ever.”

He thanked the Fleadh Committee for their “tireless efforts and work to drive and to deliver this complex festival. I know the huge work that goes into it, the many hours that it takes, the personal and the family sacrifices that it takes.”

Cllr O’Rourke commented on the legacy value of the Fleadh for years to come. “All those memories, all those cherished moments, all those social media posts and all the media activity around that week, will go on for years to come to benefit this town and indeed this region.”

He thanked the Fleadh committee for including Athlone in the Fleadh calendar of events this year, explaining that “1953 saw the Fleadh visit Athlone so we’re marking that 70-year anniversary with a visit to Athlone”.

North Midlands Credit Union, the Fleadh’s main sponsors, made the largest single contribution to date from their Social and Cultural Fund to support the event. Derek Smith, Assistant Manager, said the Fleadh “enabled Mullingar to show the best of what we have to offer our facilities, our infrastructure, our businesses, but most of all, our togetherness and our people.”

He added they “could not be happier with our investment” and remarked they “will continue to support this wonderful event”.

It was highlighted that 25% of the attendants at the Fleadh last year came from overseas and Paddy Matthews, Head of Operations at Fáilte Ireland, which is promoting and sponsoring the Fleadh, said the event is a wonderful way to showcase the town and county to visitors.

He outlined how “this year the Fáilte Ireland team, based here in Mullingar, has been working hard with all of the tourism and hospitality businesses along these two greenways to raise the profile and make a trip to the Greenway and must do activity for all of our visitors.”

Éamonn Ó hArgáin, Uach­tarán of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, in his remarks said that when he visited the county fleadhanna, “everywhere you go people are talking about Mullingar. Such a wonderful week people had in Mullingar last year and they’re looking forward to the same again this year.”

He also stated the Fleadh is about much more than music. “The Fleadh is about the community. The Fleadh is about the diaspora. The Fleadh is about families and welcoming people to the town of Mullingar. And I have no doubt next year when the Fleadh will be in Wexford, the Wexford people will be looking for advice and looking towards Mullingar.”

Labhrás Ó Murchú, Ardstiúrthóir of Comhaltas, outlined how the founders of the organisation who gathered in Mullingar in 1951 “came together with a vision”, and he added that “no one could have forecast that today Comhaltas is organised in 21 countries worldwide”.

The principal message that comes out of the Fleadh, he said, is that “there’s no place in our hearts, our minds for negativity. We must be positive in everything we do in this country.” Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, today, he said “is in a strong position and are prepared to continue that work into the next century.”

Joe Connaire, Chairperson of the Fleadh Executive Committee, said that this year “we’re going to make it better. We are going to have everyone that was here last year and a lot more people will come and roam these streets and listen to the music, tell the stories, make new friends and go home and talk about the great two years that the Fleadh was in Mullingar, the home of Comhaltas.”

He thanked North Midlands Credit Union and all of the Fleadh’s other sponsors, Minister Cat­herine Martin, Deputy Robert Troy, Minister Peter Burke, Westmeath County Council “for their support in supporting us financially and with staff”, “the wonderful volunteers, who have been spoken about since”, the Tidy Towns Committee, all the schools, Mullingar parish, Bishop Tom Deenihan, Fr Phil Gaffney, Revd Alastair Graham, the Presbyterian Church, Mullingar Town Band, the Arts Centre and An Garda Siochana “who did a superb job last year”.

He also appealed for more support, calling on those who have not yet done so to support the organisation of the Fleadh.

“It costs in the region of €1.7m to host this, and we’re raising it as volunteers. So I appeal to the business people of the town. You’re going to get the payback, you’re going to get the crowds and just be part of it, because when it’s gone, it’s gone, and we want everyone to be a part of it.”

He asked people to help the Fleadh Committee “in any little way you can…every little helps make Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann very memorable for everyone.

“And we want the Fleadh to be spoken about for years to come.”

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