My Fleadh: Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú
Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú is Director-General of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann. Originally from Cashel, Co. Tipperary, he is also Fianna Fáil spokesperson for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.
Labhrás, it's that time of year again! What aspects of the Fleadh have you really excited this year above all other years?
Well, the fact that the Fleadh was in Sligo last year and had outstanding success is very exciting.
The committee are now interested in raising the bar even more. The festival will run for nine days with hundreds of events. It will really touch every person and there will be something to meet everyone's criteria.
With a huge number of visitors coming, up to 350,000 in all, I always feel anxious to see teenagers and children play an important role. Seventy five per cent of attendees are young people, so it is important they are given a platform to first of all play our music, speak the Irish language and embrace our culture.
What goes into the preparation of the festival every year between the competitions, concerts and sessions?
What is really special about the Fleadh is that people come from all over Ireland and the world.
Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann has 420 branches across 11 countries and four continents.
The Fleadh really brings a lot of people to Ireland, so a lot of preparation goes into it.
A survey found that 20 percent of visitors are from outside of Ireland, so it is a huge boost to Irish tourism as well.
Why do you think the Fleadh appeals to the public, even if they are not traditional music fans?
The Fleadh for the last 60 years has evolved into a major celebration of who we are.
People who come enjoy the social ambience of the festival.
I think nowadays, traditional music appeals to people of all ages and all locations, but everyone who comes to the Fleadh each year has their own special interest. I think Sligo really considers that, and caters for that.
More than anything, the Fleadh is a family event and you will see children, parents and grandparents all socialising comfortably together.
That I think is the appeal of the Fleadh for everyone.
Why do you think the Fleadh remains so popular with so many returning visitors each year?
Above anything, the enjoyment of our culture and the friendship is evident.
The Fleadh allows you to meet old friends and make new friends.
It is a very inclusive festival with something for everyone.
The Fleadh is capable of capturing the interests of everyone while celebrating Irishness in its totality.
What has been your highlight as Director-General of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann?
For me, there are two highlights. The first is seeing how the young people have embraced the festival wholeheartedly. I feel like there was always a feeling in years gone by that it was more for older generations and it was more ancient music that was expressed.
That is definitely not the case anymore. There is no doubt about it that young people now have made the festival stronger that it has ever been before.
My second highlight was when Fleadh Cheoil was held in Derry in 2013. It was the first time for it to be held in the six counties but a huge amount of people have always travelled down from Northern Ireland for the Fleadh.
It was incredible to see everyone enjoying themselves and embracing being Irish without any political ties.