Northern Ireland

Thousands cheer as fleadh opens in Derry

Michael D Higgins and Martin McGuinness
Michael D Higgins
Michael D Higgins and Martin McGuinness along with fleadh organisers
celtic warrior
girls enjoying their ice cream
rugby junior boys
music and dancing
Irish dancing
pop up bar
Shipquay street
crowd at Guildhall Square
boat below peace bridge
peace bridge

Thousands of people lined the streets and packed Guildhall Square on Sunday for the opening of the All-Ireland fleadh in Londonderry.

Boats sailed up the River Foyle to traditional Irish music as people waved and cheered.

Despite the light rain, thousands danced with their umbrellas and tapped their feet.

The President of Ireland Michael D Higgins made a speech, congratulating Derry.

Music filled the air at Guildhall Square as a pageant of colour came through Waterloo Place at about 17:00 BST.

A total of 300,000 people are expected in Derry throughout the week for the festival.

'Olympics of traditional music'

President Higgins said Derry is more than capable of showcasing talent and diversity.

"You can clearly see the preparations that have been made," he said.

"To be able to reach back to all the different traditions is fantastic.

"I'm very confident that the people supporting Derry in the year of culture 2013 are creating a positive atmosphere.

"I see Derry as a much more open place.

"It is important to say that moving on is OK. There is great determination to move on here. We are in a new space."

Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said it was "the start of a momentous week for the city, the north west, and for everyone in Ireland".

"This is the first time the fleadh has been hosted in the north of Ireland and has the potential to attract 300,000 people; generating £40m for the north west," he added.

"I commend and thank Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann for their foresight in bringing the All-Ireland fleadh to Derry.

"This was a historic decision and I'm sure this will not only be a great fleadh but also one of the best ever, as we celebrate the very finest in music, song, dance and all the great things our culture has to offer."

Over the course of the week it is expected that 20,000 musicians will descend on the city to compete in what is being described by the organisers as the "Olympics of traditional music".

The traditional festival will end on 18 August with a spectacular finale at Ebrington Square.

Performances throughout the week will include acts such as Cara Dillon, Dervish and Liam O'Flynn.

There will also be a number of competitions, Irish dancing and story-telling sessions.

Northern Ireland Culture Minister Carál Ní Chuilín said: "This will be a spectacular event and a major coup for the City of Culture to host the largest celebration of Irish traditional music in the world.

"In churches, halls and squares, all across the city, music will echo from dawn to dusk.

"I am particularly looking forward to the Poet and the Piper - an exclusive performance of two of the country's finest, Derry's own Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney taking the stage with iconic uilleann piper Liam O'Flynn for a wonderful evening of poetry and music."

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