Ireland’s biggest traditional music festival, the Fleadh Cheoil, is back after a two-year absence.
On Sunday, President Michael D Higgins officially opened the celebration of music, dance, song and storytelling in Mullingar, County Westmeath.
The festival was canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The staging of the festival in Mullingar has been titled ‘Back to Basics’ as the town hosted the first Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann over 70 years ago in 1951.
Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to visit the festival over the coming week as artists from around the world enter 150 competitions.
The opening ceremony heard a tribute to tragic primary school teacher and talented traditional musician Ashling Murphy, 23, who was killed while jogging by a canal in Tullamore, Co Offaly in January.
Ms. Murphy Memorial Bursaries will be awarded to musicians at this year’s Fleadh.
The festival program will also include a special performance by a group of Ukrainian musicians.
At the opening ceremony, President Higgins highlighted the continued importance of traditional music in Irish culture.
“Music means so much to us, a nation, an artistic medium for which we have a high culture and value,” he said.
“He is central to our history and our culture.”
Fleadh Executive Committee Chairman Joe Connaire said: “We are delighted to have finally arrived at this momentous gathering.
“We are very proud that the Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann has returned to its roots here in Mullingar, where the very first Fleadh took place, organized by the founding members of Comhaltas (Irish cultural organization).
“From a few hundred people who were there all those years ago, to the hundreds of thousands who will flock to the county this year, the Fleadh is intrinsic to preserving the legacy of traditional Irish music, dance and culture. .”
The Independent Gt