Westmeath County Council will officially invite Bruce Springsteen to the county for The Gathering.
Although the possibility of an invitation has been mentioned at town and county council meetings in the last year, it wasn’t until this week’s March meeting of the county council that it was agreed that an official invitation will be sent to the rock superstar.
Springsteen will perform a number of concerts in Ireland later this year at a variety of venues including Kilkenny’s Nowlan Park.
It’s understood that Springsteen has ancestors from Rathowen, and Cllr Denis Leonard was one of those keen for Springsteen and Dallas actor Patrick Duffy to be invited to Westmeath.
Duffy, who came to fame playing the role of Bobby Ewing, has family from Kinnegad. Cllr Leonard said Springsteen has strong links to the Mullingar area.
He has “always shown a great affinity for Ireland”, explained Cllr Leonard, and after the meeting pointed out that Springsteen loves the Irish people.
“He loves Irish music, he feels a lot of his music was influenced by the Irish people who went to America and some of those people were his own,” Cllr Leonard said.
He also highlighted that Springsteen’s daughter recently bought a racehorse in Bellewstown.
He said it’s important for the county to be proactive in inviting the Westmeath diaspora home for the event and it would be very sad if those invitations didn’t go out.
He said if high profile people are invited and return during The Gathering year, it shows that everyone is welcome here.
This will give a boost to heritage, he said speaking in his role as chair of Westmeath’s Heritage Forum.
“The heritage value of The Gathering is huge by bringing people back to see their native area to see how much has changed, to see the evolving of communities and to see how much the heritage has influenced them over the years.”
But he said there is more to be done, and the work of The Gathering cannot be left to national organisations.
Being involved with Fáilte Ireland is a good way of networking and increases the potential audience, he said.
However, “You can’t leave someone else to do your own bidding and your own work,” he said.
“I think we need to look at a lot of the people who left here, and that will encourage others to come back and reconnect with the heritage that’s on the ground.
“Huge community effort has gone in in recent decades to bring that heritage to life, refreshing our value for it. And I think it’s important that as many people as possible experience that this year,” he said.
Cllr Fintan Cooney proposed that soprano Ailish Tynan also be invited to Westmeath for The Gathering celebrations.