Fleadh-bulous finale as festival breaks all records
Thousands of music lovers celebrated the end of the biggest All Ireland Fleadh in the event's 60-year history last night with a huge farewell party that ran long into the early hours.
Revellers poured into Derry for the finale as organisers revealed that an incredible 430,000 visitors had attended the Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann over the past week – far exceeding the 300,000 anticipated and making it the biggest and most successful celebration of Irish music ever.
As the lasers and lights of Fidget Feet lit up the night sky and the music of the Battlefield Band entertained the Ebrington Square crowds, crowds thronged the city streets to savour the party atmosphere that the fleadh brought to the city right up until the last minute.
Visitors were unanimous in their praise of the organisation and the atmosphere.
Patrick O'Donaghue from Athlone said he had attended many previous events but was amazed by Derry's effort.
"I wasn't sure if it would work in a city but I have to say with the pop-up bars and the market stalls it was a great experience," he said.
"If it came back to Derry in the future I would definitely be back."
Carmen Doyle, a visitor from Australia, said she was overwhelmed by what she had seen.
"I was not sure what this fleadh thing was going to be all about but I have to say I have never experienced anything like it," she added.
"The atmosphere, the music, the good nature of the crowds were all amazing – I loved it all."
As traditional music drifted out from bars and street corners across the fleadh zone in the city centre, the organisers were congratulated by speaker after speaker at the closing ceremony.
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness described the fleadh as "an enormous triumph for the whole city".
The Derry man said: "With the indications being that there were 430,000 visitors to the city I have to congratulate all concerned with the Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann.
"In particular I would praise the work of the Culture Company, the City Council, Comhaltas and of course all the volunteers who made this success possible."
He singled out fleadh chairwomen Eibhlin Ni Dochartaigh who was "tireless in her efforts to ensure this was an event the likes of which this city has never seen before".
"When it was suggested bringing the fleadh to Derry some said it could not be done in a city but we believed Derry was ideal and this has been shown to be true."
"But what really pleases me about the success of the fleadh is the way that everybody got behind it with the churches and both sides of the community making sure it went off smoothly and successfully."
City Mayor Martin Reilly said the fleadh had been a phenomenal event during a remarkable week.
"As a city we have delighted in opening our arms to the thousands of international visitors and I want to mention in particular the visitors from the length and breadth of the Republic of Ireland, many of whom have never visited or stayed in the city before now," he said.
"I have no doubt that positive experience of the All Ireland Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann will hold a great legacy for the city."