Sunday, July 21, 2024

The eyes of the trad world, and far beyond that too, will be on Castletown-Geoghegan this weekend

The County Fleadh will take place in Castletown-Geoghegan this weekend and what a wonderful celebration of all things Irish it will be.

The village has made the headlines over the past couple of months because of plans by the State to use Middleton Park House, or its land, to accommodate asylum seekers (or international protection applicants, as the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth likes to call them). These were the kind of headlines that the people of Castletown-Geoghegan didn’t ask for, need or deserve.

But at least for this weekend, the village can set aside that issue and concentrate on welcoming people from all over the county as they celebrate traditional Irish music and dance.

We would encourage everyone who has an interest in music to pay a visit to Castletown-Geoghegan sometime over the weekend – but not just for the music and not just to see for themselves how welcoming the people of the village are, but to refresh what used to be called ‘a sense of Irishness’. It’s unique and easily forgotten.

Today’s world is dominated by the internet and the digital world; access to information has never been easier, even if a lot of that information is actually disinformation and even if a lot of it is likely to be harmful or distressing.

Alongside the web, dark or otherwise, is the march of globalisation – “the process by which businesses or other organisations develop international influence or start operating on an international scale”, as the dictionary defines it.

‘There are organisations in this country which work tirelessly to offer people the chance to remember what being Irish means…’

Both digitisation and globalisation have a negative effect on our sense of identity. How quickly our youth pick up sayings and accents from TV or TikTok, how quickly trends move through the population, and how un-Irish we can become in any conversation.

Some people will say they are citizens of the world first, citizens of the European Union second, and citizens of Ireland third. Thank goodness there are organisations in this country which work tirelessly to offer people the chance to remember what being Irish means. Top of the list would surely be the GAA and Comhaltas Ceoiltóirí Éireann, but there are others too.

Thanks to the GAA, little bits of Ireland have taken root abroad, with clubs in far-flung places like the USA and Australia. Travel to a GAA club in New York and you’ll quickly feel at home; it’s that sense of Irishness, it’s the rising of the hairs on the back of your neck when, in some bar in some resort on some continent, you hear The Fields of Athenry and, suddenly, you’re feeling ‘home’.

Ditto the Fleadh, be it the county version such as is being celebrated in Castletown-Geoghegan, or the National Fleadh which returns to Mullingar in August. This weekend the small Westmeath village will be the centre of the universe for all things Irish – certainly in terms of music and dance and whatever else is on the programme, but beyond that, because of how it will actually feel to be there for people who take the trouble to visit.

So go along to one of the events in Castletown-Geoghegan this weekend if you can, listen, close your eyes and feel something stirring that is as deep within you are your DNA.

It’s your sense of Irishness – your characteristics, your language, a descendant of the aboriginal Celtic-speaking people of this island; worth celebrating, worth defending, anywhere, any time.

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