President Michael D Higgins was in Mullingar on Sunday (July 31) to perform the official opening duties of Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann 2022.
Thousands gathered in Blackhall car park around the main ‘Gig Rig’ stage in advance of the official opening ceremony, and were entertained by tunes from Westmeath CCÉ while waiting.
In his speech, the President described the people of Westmeath as hugely important in developing Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann and the Fleadh itself.
“This Mullingar Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann has been named ‘The Homecoming’ because of the enormous Comhaltas history that attaches to Mullingar, the county town of Westmeath,” he said.
“Without a doubt, one of the most significant musical and cultural events to take place in Westmeath was the founding of Comhaltas in Mullingar in 1951. Westmeath people were front and central to this development and continue to be so.
“The first Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann was held in Mullingar in 1951, and in 1953 Athlone was the host town.
“These were small events but within a decade, by 1963, when Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann returned to Mullingar, the scene was transformed, and the gathering was huge.”
The weeklong festival is back for the first time since Drogheda in 2019. Some 500,000 festival-goers from Ireland and abroad are expected to attend between July 31 and August 8, making it the largest musical gathering in the country.