Festival makes history at Derry
The world's largest celebration of Irish culture has kicked off in Derry - the first time in its 62-year history the Fleadh Cheoil has been held in Northern Ireland.
The week-long celebration of music, song and dance is expected to draw 300,000 visitors to the city.
Officially launching the Fleadh, Irish President Michael D Higgins said this year's festival has a special historical significance, as it marks a strengthening of ties across the border.
"Derry-Londonderry has borne more than its fair share of the burden of a divisive past," he said. "In recent years it has transcended this past by rebuilding, renewing and re-imagining the Maiden City. It has risen to the challenge of freeing itself from the burden of a divisive history and - has done so - by working to create a new and vibrant society."
The Fleadh is one of the highlights of Derry's year-long celebrations as City of Culture 2013.
As many as 20,000 musicians will descend on the city to compete in what has been described as the Olympics of traditional music.
Flagship concerts include The Poet and the Piper with Seamus Heaney and Liam O'Flynn, Cara Dillon and the Orchestra of Ireland, Dervish, Flook, Lorcan Mac Mathuna and dance spectacular Take the Floor.
A one-off event The Transatlantic Fleadh, marking musical connections between Ireland, Scotland and North America, will include performances by Grammy award winner Tim O'Brien, Arty McGlynn, Eddi Reader, Karen Matheson, Declan O'Rourke and Michael McGoldrick.
"It is a particular pleasure to be here during what is a very special year for the city," said President Higgins. "To be designated the City of Culture for 2013 is a great honour indeed but also richly merited.
"Derry's status as the City of Culture has given its people an opportunity to show the world what you already knew but were too modest to say - that this is an exciting city, proud of its history but also driven by vibrant communities who are determined to create a positive future for themselves."