Thousands flock to Ardoyne Fleadh as it is hailed 'best yet
THE 23rd annual Ardoyne Fleadh has been hailed as the "biggest and best yet" after over 15,000 people attended the six-day festival.
The programme of events, organised by the voluntary Ardoyne Fleadh committee, was free to the community and came to a climax with three nights of concerts including performances from The Voice star Connor Scott and Londonderry's Jordan O'Keefe from Britain's Got Talent.
Organisers said that the reputation of the Fleadh is growing year on year and has even seen visitors travel from as far away as Cork, Dublin and overseas.
Chairman of the Ardoyne Fleadh committee Paul McCusker said that the festival had been a major boost to the community after a summer of raised tensions in north Belfast.
"With raised tensions around Ardoyne over the summer months this event give a massive boost to the local community. The community celebrated its culture in the best way possible through music and dance. The Ardoyne Fleadh committee was overwhelmed with the support this year and the positive feedback," he said.
In what has been described as a minor incident by the committee around 50 loyalist protesters attempted to disrupt one of the Fleadh events which took visitors on a tour of Crumlin Road Gaol.
A bus taking people to the event from the Ardoyne area needed a police escort into the building after it was targeted with eggs and bottles.
"It's not something that we want to focus on and we certainly wouldn't want it taking away from what has been a hugely successful festival," said Mr McCusker. "We run these events for the community and that means all the community we encourage members from the protestant community to attend our events and get involved. We try to put music on that will cater to all sides and make it inclusive for everyone.
"What I will say is that while we are not sure why the event was targeted we would like to engage with these people and understand why for the future.
This year's festival closed when over 7,000 people showed their support for north Belfast's 'Wee Oscar' Knox when they released chinese lanterns and prayed that Oscar will make a speedy recovery at the open air concert.
"We hope to build on this success and next year our aim already is to be bigger and better again. The Ardoyne Fleadh will be running other events throughout the year and we will continue to show Ardoyne in a positive light."