The 68th annual Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann drew to a close over the weekend and it’s estimated that over 500,000 people visited Drogheda over the past week. The annual celebration of Irish music, dancing, storytelling and language has attracted record crowds to the town, on the banks of the Boyne.
The festivities were opened by President Michael D Higgins with his wife Sabina, and since then the town has been welcoming people from not just all over Ireland, but from every corner of the world, to celebrate Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar also paid a visit to the historic festival over the closing weekend
This years Fleadh featured some of the finest musicians in the country, including Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill, Damien Dempsey, Beoga, Micheal O’Suilleabhain, Andy Irvine and Donal Lunny, as well as the band Stockton’s Wing, who reformed for a one off performance for the first time in decades. There was also a unique performance by the Hot House Flowers, who were joined on stage by two asylum seekers, one from Syria and one from Albania, and there was also a performance from the Toyotara Ceili Band from Tokyo, which served to underline and wide ranging International appeal of the Fleadh around the world.
Logistically it is estimated that there were over 1,500 volunteers working in the town, along with extra people from the Civil Defence, the Gardai as well as members of the Ambulance and Fire Brigades, and an extra force of paramedics all drafted in to help the town cope with the record numbers, even the workers in Louth County Council have been volunteering to help out.
Lolo Robinson, Chairperson of the Fleadh Executive Committee said, “It has been a great privilege to host this fantastic event and showcase Drogheda’s beauty and history to a global audience. I would like to thank everyone from the many voluntary groups to the visitors to Drogheda, and I sincerely hope that everybody had a wonderful, safe and happy time in our town and county.”
Dr Labhrás Ó Murchú, Ardstiúrthóir, Comhaltas Ceoltóiri Éireann said, “In the region of 500,000 people have attended the Fleadh over eight days, possibly the largest attendance in the history of the Fleadh Cheoil. A feature of this year’s Fleadh is the widespread representation from countries worldwide, countries such as Japan, North America, Britain and Australia. In fact, over 25% of those attending are from out of State, helping to generate an estimated €40 million for the local economy. The Fleadh is a model of partnership between Comhaltas Ceoltóiri Eireann and Louth County Council.”
This is the first time in the Fleadh’s history that the All-Ireland Fleadh has been held in Drogheda, a town built on community spirit. It is a vibrant town driven by a positive outlook, nestling in a tranquil oasis of heritage and culture. Its enthusiasm and can-do attitude has never been more evident than last week as the people of Drogheda opened its town to a record number of visitors, giving them a céad míle fáilte to remember.