Thursday 14 December 2017

Fury as Derry bid to host All-Ireland fleadh rejected

Eimear Ni Bhraonain

FURIOUS Comhaltas members in Derry are to appeal a decision to reject their bid to host Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann.

The All-Ireland fleadh, which attracts more than 250,000 people annually, was widely expected to be staged in Derry in 2013 -- the first time it would have been held in the North.

Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann yesterday expressed "surprise" and "disappointment" after its Ulster Council dramatically turned down the bid, blaming fears over dissident violence.

The organisation's executive will meet this Saturday to consider the appeal.

The event was set to coincide with Derry's year as the UK City of Culture -- and would have attracted media attention from around the world.

The North's first minister Peter Robinson and deputy first minister Martin McGuinness had backed the proposals for Derry to hold the 10-day festival.

Other bids had been received from Ennis and Sligo town; however, it is understood that Derry was hot favourite to host.

At a meeting on Sunday, a sub-committee of the Comhaltas Ulster Council ruled against Derry city's bid. They cited possible dangers posed by dissidents after two bomb explosions in the city last week.

However, it is understood that some people in the city were unhappy to have the fleadh associated with a cultural festival with 'UK' in its title.

Comhaltas chief Labhras O Murchu said the group was "surprised and disappointed" by the Ulster Council's rejection. He said the position was "unfair to all those in the North of Ireland from both traditions who have supported traditional music down through the years".

"They must feel very disappointed that all their work has been ignored," he added.

He also said the Comhaltas organisation was "well received" throughout Britain. Mr O Murchu said he believed it was the "first time" ever that a Comhaltas provincial committee had stopped a bid from going ahead. "It sends the wrong message," he said.

Comhaltas yesterday received emails of support from across the country, Britain, Europe, Australia and Canada backing Derry's bid to host the All-Ireland fleadh.

"I think we have to get this back on track," said Mr O Murchu. "This is historical, the event has never gone north of the Border and there's a unifying element to it."

Chairman of the Derry County Board of Comhaltas, Brendan Molloy, said he was "shocked beyond belief" by the Ulster Council's decision.

Mr Molloy said it, "beggar(ed) belief" that a "handful of people" could put a stop to such a historic event taking place.

The Ulster Council was contacted for a response; however, there was no comment from the council.

Irish Independent

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