An estimated 600,000 people visited Mullingar for Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann 2023.

‘Fleadh can be basis to build truly compelling visitor destination’

By Paddy Mathews, head of Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands with Fáilte Ireland

Just when we thought that the fleadh couldn’t get any better, it did! Fleadh 2023 was undoubtedly the biggest and best yet. Between August 6 and August 14, we saw greater visitor numbers, particularly early in the week, and more business done by tourism and hospitality businesses right throughout the town.

This year also saw a bigger and better Float to the Fleadh and the inaugural Féile na Sionainne Athlone, which was a massive success.

Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, the local Comhaltas committee, chaired by Joe Connaire, and the hundreds of volunteers are to be warmly congratulated on making it all happen.

We know that festivals and events are a key component of Ireland’s tourism offering and they provide unique and compelling reasons for a visitor to choose a destination. We also know that they have the ability to drive footfall for local businesses, supporting jobs and revenue generation.

We hope that the Fleadh Cheoil 2023 has shone a spotlight on Mullingar and the wider region as a destination for authentic experiences within Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands, inspiring visitors to return and explore the area and visit the many unique attractions.

But what does the fleadh mean for tourism in Mullingar and will it have any lasting impact beyond the week of the fleadh itself? Will it be the catalyst for tourism growth that we know is possible?

Well, that’s up to all of us.

The fleadh has certainly shown Mullingar in its best light. The streets, shops, pubs and restaurants have never looked better. We got to hear the spectacular local musical talent that we have in this county. We got to experience the joy of walking and cycling through the town without having to avoid traffic or wait to cross the road while priority is given to cars.

The fleadh showed us what we as a community can do when we put our minds to it. It showed us the power of volunteerism and how much people in Mullingar are willing to do for their town without asking for anything in return. We got to create memories that we will never forget.

If we can take everything that was great about the fleadh and can sustain it over the coming years – that pride, determination and spirit of collaboration – then we can build a truly compelling visitor destination for the future.

Any successful tourist destination has three core success factors: (1) strong tourism attractions, which can include an attractive and characterful town with interesting, independent retail and lots to see and do; (2) a vibrant and welcoming local community who are intensely proud of where they’re from; and (3) a strong coalition of tourism stakeholders, including local businesses, community organisations, local authorities and state agencies all working together towards a shared vision for the future.

It’s no coincidence that the Mullingar Chamber chose this year to establish Destination Mullingar. This is clear evidence that Mullingar wants to create a lasting legacy after the fleadh.

Fáilte Ireland looks forward to working constructively with Destination Mullingar over the months and years to come.

In the meantime, if you have ideas for a tourism business or want to expand your tourism business, you can access capital funding to make it happen through the Just Transition Fund for tourism that was announced by Fáilte Ireland last week.