The Irish ambassador to Belgium praised three local musicians who performed at a series of events in Brussels to showcase Derry’s hosting of the All Ireland Fleadh as great advertisements for the city.
His Excellency Eamonn Mac Aodha made the comment after watching north west musicians Paddy Kenny, Aoibhlinn Loughlin and Mairead O’Connor perform on stage with The Chieftains in the Belgian capital last week.
The ambassador was one of many dignitaries, including MEPs, MLA, senior civil servants from both sides of the border, and other invited guests who attend the performance at the Flagey concert hall in Brussels to mark Ireland’s presidency of the European Union.
The three musicians were part of a delegation of performers from Derry who travelled to Brussels as part of a delegation from Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann to promote the Fleadh, which will be held in the city in August.
The previous night the rest of the delegation performed at a showcase event in the European Parliament organised by Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson.
Speaking at a reception held after the performance, Mr Mac Aodha said the three musicians who played with The Chieftains were “excellent ambassadors” for the city.
“I thought they were brilliant,” he said. “They are excellent ambassadors, not only for Comhaltas, but for Derry and for Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann.
“This year’s Fleadh will be a special event, not just in terms of Irish culture, but as a attraction that can bring many visitors to Derry and Ireland,” he explained.
The ambassador also said the event highlights the importance of Ireland’s presidency of the European Union. “We are in the middle of our presidency so it is great to take this opportunity to recognise the importance of culture and the key role it plays in Irish life, particularly the music. That is what makes people want to come and visit Ireland and hopefully events such as this will bring even more visitors to our shores.
“Not only do events like the Fleadh promote culture life, they are also good for the economy as well. Sometimes we don’t appreciate the importance of culture in Irish life and society. I have found that it is only when we are overseas that you can look at it and see just how importance it plays.”
Ms Anderson also paid tribute to the musicians and said the performance made her very proud of Derry. “I am so proud to be from this city. They did everyone in Derry proud and hopefully this opportunity to play alongside musicians of such standing will open many doors for them in the future,” she said.