Fleadh 2023 will be bigger and better

Fleadh organisers are expecting a record number of people to attend this year's event, which gets underway on Sunday.

Last year's fleadh attracted more than 500,000 people to Mullingar over the course of eight days. Speaking to the Westmeath Examiner yesterday (Monday), Fleadh Organising Committee chair Joe Connaire said he and his colleagues are “putting the finishing touches together for what will hopefully be an even bigger and better Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann”.

He said that visitor numbers are expected to rise by between 10 and 15 per cent this year, due to the success of last year's event. Visitor numbers will also be boosted this year, he says, by locals who will be staying at home instead of travelling abroad.

“I think a lot of people from Westmeath who didn’t know much about the fleadh went off on holidays last year. When they came home their friends that were at the event said it was something they never experienced before. I think there will also be a lot of people who will travel from all over the world due to the success of last year. We have added a diaspora theme to the fleadh this year to encourage people from abroad to come back to Mullingar where Comhaltas was founded.

“There will be people coming from Melbourne, Singapore, Argentina, and all over the world, so it will be a huge showcase for Mullingar. The future benefits that the fleadh will bring to Mullingar is tourism and that is already evident in the hotels and the amount of tourists visiting the town since last August. This is not just for the week of the fleadh; this is about bringing money into the local economy for years to come.”

Mr Connaire, who paid tribute to his colleagues on the organising committee for their efforts over the past five years, said that he hopes local people get out in large numbers to get a good taste of what makes the Fleadh Cheoil such a unique event.

He also offered an olive branch to local publicans and other hospitality businesses following comments he made during a presentation at the July meeting of Westmeath County Council last week.

"This event is for everyone in Westmeath, we have put this out as a county wide celebration. I want everyone to enjoy it and I want every business to make money, that's what it's all about. If I upset the vintners last week, I sincerely apologise it was a misunderstanding...I just wan't to say to the vintners that they have been very co-operative to us on a collective basis.

"There will be free entertainment on the gig rig, while it the concerts that bring in revenue for us to pay for the event. I would like to encourage people to book their tickets and support our events in the cathedral, St Paul's Church and in the town band hall.

"All the pubs and the hotels are doing their own thing, but that's not bringing money into our own committee. I have no issue with this, the event is big enough for everybody, there's a slice there for everyone. I would just like to call out to people to support our official Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann events and I know they will.”