All the fun of the Fleadh for President Higgins
The annual Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann, Ireland's biggest traditional Irish music festival, kicked off last night after President Michael D Higgins told revellers it was now an inclusive celebration of Irishness.
The formal start of the 64th festival was heralded by a colourful parade through the streets of Sligo from City Hall to Stephen Street.
Competitions and trad sessions galore get underway today, attracting up to 400,000 people over the next week.
President Higgins and his wife Sabina made a point of visiting the volunteer centre where 1,900 people will be based to help competitors and visitors from 50 countries around the world.
Among them was Cheryl Brohier from India who has been living in Sligo since 2012. "It is my way of giving back to Sligo," she said.
"I adore Irish traditional music. I am attracted to its soulfulness and often it is not unlike the melancholic airs of Indian music."
At the gig rig, the South Sligo under-12 Céilí Band were given the honour of providing a musical introduction to President Higgins as 10,000 people packed the streets.
Music and song, said the President, had kept the diaspora abroad together as a cohesive unit and many descendants of the Irish abroad would be in Sligo for the Fleadh this week to celebrate their heritage among thousands of competitors.