Now worth €40m, Fleadh Ceoil is back in Clare for the first time since 1977

For weeks, there has been a sense of the prodigal son returning. Fleadh Ceoil na hEireann is back in Clare for the first time since 1977. Thirty-nine years of wandering finally ends; the Fleadh is home.

In the lead-up to yesterday’s opening day, there was a triumphant mood within the county. The bunting is out, the signs are up, and the music is back.

The Fleadh is a seminal event in the Irish music calendar. A celebration not just of music, but of the very essence of being Irish. Nothing brings people together in this country quite like music.

Just take a look at the hundreds of festivals every summer. At the heart of each one is the music. In the best of times and the worst of times, we always had our music, the engine of our cultural heritage.

The Fleadh will be worth an estimated €40m to the local economy, with 400,000 people coming to Clare to see the best of traditional Irish music.

Six thousand participants are expected to fill the streets with their music, many of them coming from other parts of the world, because the Irish emigrant spread our music everywhere. This is as much a global celebration as it is a local one.

I have often felt that Ennis is an underappreciated town in Ireland’s west.

The staging post between Galway and Limerick, it has often struggled to bring its own identity to a bigger audience. That may soon end.

Along its narrow streets, I have often felt a sense of place. Streets so narrow you can’t help but interact with people, streets that are home to some of the best businesses in the country. That’s no wild statement, I can assure you.

Suas Coffee House has one of the best cups of coffee in the country. McHugh’s Bar is home to Western Herd Brewing, which developed the Ceoil beer just for this week.

Bourke’s menswear has been the home of men’s fashion for decades, and now sends suits to Irish emigrants around the world.

Like many high streets, in the past decade Ennis’s has taken a beating. It was a tough place to be for a long time. Many businesses held on; many weren’t so lucky. People within the business community rallied.

In the past two years, the high street has begun to work on its design. In the next few months, a new, roofed market will open; an indoor market with the best of local produce and design.

The Fleadh will bring the music, but the businesses will have to bring Clare’s identity to the masses.

The frontline for all the services within the town, businesses will be what people judge their experience on.

How well these businesses perform will determine the real success for the town. It’s up to them to make this count.

It will be great to see the throngs of people back in the town again. One week of music and fun to showcase the best of who we are.

The music is back, the prodigal son has returned.


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