Festive feeling | 

Tribute to Ashling Murphy as thousands attend Mullingar’s 'homecoming’ Fleadh Cheoil

President Michael D Higgins paid tribute to the volunteers who make the festival happen and Ashling Murphy, who was a very active fiddle player in the Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann community.
Musicians and sisters Anna Dunleavy (left) and Aoife Dunleavy play in Mullingar. Photo: Brian Lawless/ PA

Musicians and sisters Anna Dunleavy (left) and Aoife Dunleavy play in Mullingar. Photo: Brian Lawless/ PA© PA

Robert KindreganIndependent.ie

Traditional musician Ashling Murphy was remembered as thousands of festival goers are returning to Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann after the pandemic.

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 this week, making it the largest musical gathering in the country.

Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann was formed in Mullingar in 1951 where the first ever Fleadh was held following its formation. Now in its 70th edition, this years festival has been dubbed ‘The Homecoming’ by organisers.

President Michael D Higgins paid tribute to the volunteers who make the festival happen and Ashling Murphy, who was a very active fiddle player in the Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann community.

“Volunteerism and generosity of spirit are the cornerstones of Comhaltas, and such values are manifest at the Fleadh. Its network of branches and events are underpinned by a core of upwards on 50,000 volunteers.

“Each of these individuals plays a part in ensuring the vibrancy of the traditional living arts and sharing its appreciation with the upcoming generation of performers.

“We remember, too, Ashling Murphy the young Irish primary school teacher and traditional Irish musician who was taken from us earlier this year so tragically.”

In his speech, the President described the Fleadh as a means of connecting with the greater world.

“As a nation with a particularly rich arts and culture tradition, we in Ireland look to live music, and indeed the wider arts, for personal and social fulfilment. It’s a source of age-old wisdom and understanding, and as a means of resonating with each other and the world itself.

He went on to reference the tribulations musicians have faced over the last couple of years due to Covid-19 restrictions.

“In Covid times, more than almost any others in Irish society, performing artists were among the most impacted from the pandemic and the restrictions imposed.

“The truth is that it has been a dreadful time for our musicians who have been stifled, cut off from their audiences, unable to fulfil their creative aspirations, or to earn a living by playing their music live for the people on the stage to a rapt audience.”

Among the other speeches to a crowd of roughly 3,000 people in Mullingar’s Blackhall Car Park, were words from Chairman of the Fleadh Committee, Joe Connaire, Bishop of Meath Tom Deenihan and Cathaoirleach of Westmeath County Council Aengus O’Rourke.

“There has never been an event as eagerly awaited as Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann 2022,” said the Cathaoirleach.

“I would just like to say to everyone, from dancers, to singers, storytellers, vendors, locals and of course international guests – I hope you enjoy every moment and have an amazing time here in Mullingar!”

Fleadh Chairman, Mr Connaire said it was “six years in the making trying to get the Fleadh to come to Mullingar” and added it was “surreal” to see his plans finally come to fruition.

Over 160 competitions will take place over the week as competitors from Asia, Australia, Europe, the US and UK are set to battle it out for glory.


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