Tomás Ó Maoldomhnaigh, ardrúnaí of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, performed the formal launch of Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann 2022.

Tomás Ó Maoldomhnaigh performs official launch honours

Tomás Ó Maoldomhnaigh (right), ardrúnaí of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, performed the formal launch of Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann 2022. He said: “We recall with fondness the founding of Comhaltas here in Mullingar in 1951 and we have to applaud the vision of the founding members – there is no possibility that you would have found a gathering of young musicians like this in 1951, performing music at that level.

“The status of the music was in many instances confined to the fireside – it wasn’t on the world stage as it is today, so we have to thank the founding members for their plan to preserve what they had and to promote it, and part of that promotion was setting up a structure to teach classes and branches of Comhaltas across Ireland and the world.”

Tomás thanked all the volunteers “who pass on the culture to future generations”, and making reference to title of this year’s event, ‘The Homecoming’, he said there are reports from 1951 that there were hundreds of people at the fleadh – “now we’re talking about hundreds of thousands”.

“I would like a big welcome for the competitors, because they are the basis that all fleadh cheoil, and particularly Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann, are based on. We are ready to celebrate our cultural traditions as they should be celebrated and I thank and compliment the FEC for keeping the flame alive in the two years [during the pandemic], and the leadership of the FEC, under Joe Connaire.

“It wouldn’t happen without the support of so many people, 1500 to 2000 volunteers, and there’s still a callout for volunteers; the major input of Westmeath County Council, taking an amazing interest in making sure everything is in order for Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann, and I acknowledge the input of sponsors, including Fáilte Ireland.” In that context he said the value of the fleadh in Cavan in 2010 was estimated at €48m, and that some 25 per cent of visitors are from abroad.

“And, part of Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann is learning – Scoil Éigse [the week-long school of traditional Irish music] is for advanced students, and up to 800 will be attending over the week of the fleadh, and 70 or 80 tutors, under the direction of Kieran O’Hanlon. We also acknowledge the venues for Scoil Éigse and for the competitions.

“The plan for official opening on the Sunday is a visit by Uachtarán na hÉireann Michael D Higgins, who has in the past shown a huge interest in supporting Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann. I also thank the branches [of Comhaltas], in particular the seven branches in Westmeath, for their involvement and those represented here this evening and their teachers.”

Before concluding his address with the official launch of the Fleadh Cheoil 2022, Tomás also acknowledged Áras an Mhuilinn, which Comhaltas set up as resource centre, and its director Camillus Glynn.