Former Taoiseach Brian Cowen has been honoured at Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in a rare public appearance following his 2019 stroke.
The 62-year-old was handed the Gradam na hÉigse award for his longstanding support of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann at the event in Mullingar yesterday.
This week has seen the Fleadh return to Mullingar after a two-year pandemic break, with the main competition section set to get underway today.
The festival attracts in the region of around half a million people to the Westmeath town.
Former Taoiseach Brian Cowen accepts award at @fleadhcheoil for his contributions to the music festival.
— Josh Crosbie (@JoshCrosbie3) August 4, 2022
Mr Cowen addressed a crowd of around 2,000 people picking up his award yesterday.
“I would like to thank everyone who was involved in giving this award to me whether it is deserved or not remains to be seen,” he said before joking: “It’s done anyway and I’m not giving it back.”
Mr Cowen congratulated the Westmeath footballers on the recent Tailteann Cup victory and said Offaly was looking on with envy “at the great craic you are going to have in Mullingar over the next few days”.
“So, we’ll return to the music as quickly as possible and thank you all very much for this wonderful occasion,” he said. “It’s a great pleasure to be here along with friends.”
The former Taoiseach spent 12 months in hospital following a serious stroke in July 2019.
His recovery initially required the use of a wheelchair but more recently he has begun walking with the aid of a crutch.
He is now determined to regain his full mobility.
Reporting from Josh Crosbie.