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'Disappointed, but there's a bigger picture'

Milltown Fleadh chairman reflects as All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil is finally cancelled

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Pictured last June at last year’s Fleadh in Milltown were (front row from left) Joe Horan, Sive Mannix (harp),
Fionan Sexton, Louise Kimmage and John Sexton. (Back row) Daniel Mannix, Rebecca Howe, Cora Lee
Howe and Katie Howe.

Pictured last June at last year’s Fleadh in Milltown were (front row from left) Joe Horan, Sive Mannix (harp), Fionan Sexton, Louise Kimmage and John Sexton. (Back row) Daniel Mannix, Rebecca Howe, Cora Lee Howe and Katie Howe.

Pictured last June at last year’s Fleadh in Milltown were (front row from left) Joe Horan, Sive Mannix (harp), Fionan Sexton, Louise Kimmage and John Sexton. (Back row) Daniel Mannix, Rebecca Howe, Cora Lee Howe and Katie Howe.

Disappointed but mindful of the 'bigger picture' is how Vincent Prendergast, Chairman of Milltown Fleadh, reacted to confirmation this week by Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann that this year's All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil, due to take place in Mullingar in August, has been cancelled.

It follows on the back of Milltown Fleadh's decision to cancel the 2020 county Fleadh in June, when the mid-Kerry town was looking forward to hosting the popular traditional music extravaganza for a third year in a row.

"It's very disappointing for the competitors but also for us, as a group, trying to organise it," Vincent said.

"Bringing free entertainment to Milltown for the week of the Fleadh was a huge event that people enjoyed. But we can't control this as trying to run Fleadhs with the social-distancing measures would be impossible," he added. Vincent said a decision to cancel had already been taken at county level throughout the 32 counties, and that in the current environment, Comhaltas decided not to put the safety of people at risk.

"They took action immediately for the safety of members of the public. When faced with something like this you just have to deal with what's in front of you. You have competitions up along through the ages from U12s, where young people are learning Irish music.

"These competitions have now stopped, and it's disappointing as this was their show-piece; now they're without it," Vincent said.

County Fleadhs are a stepping stone to All-Ireland success every year as the winners go forward to the provincial stages before competing in the national competition, which Vincent describes as 'the mecca' of traditional Irish music.

"Considering we had over 130 volunteers with the last couple of years helping us to run the Milltown Fleadh, it was special. The Milltown community was delighted at being able to supply great venues. They gave a lot of their time, and they're all disappointed as well. However, they appreciate the reason behind this. We'll accept it and move on."

Finally, can Milltown expect to reverse the disappointment of 2020 by hosting the County Fleadh in 2021?

"There's a process that must be gone through with the Comhaltas County Board in October as to who will host it. We would hope to put our name forward for 2021, but it would be down to the Comhaltas groups in Kerry to take a vote on it to allow us host it. For now, hopefully the virus will be under control sometime in the near future," Vincent added.

Kerryman