Dismay at Derry fleadh decision

 

A decision by the Ulster council of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann to reject Derry’s bid to hold the all-Ireland fleadh next year has been criticised for sending out the “wrong message”.

The central executive of the organisation is to meet in Dublin on Saturday to consider an appeal from the Derry branch of the organisation against the decision.

It is also due to decide which venue should host the fleadh next year. If the Derry appeal is successful, that decision may be postponed.

Three towns - Ennis, Sligo and Derry - have applied to hold the all-Ireland fleadh next year with Derry, which will be UK City of Culture in 2013, viewed as favourite to win the bid.

The festival, which runs over 10 days at the end of August, attracts up to 300,000 visitors and is worth some €40 million to the host town or city. It has never been held in Northern Ireland over its 60 year history.

Executive members of the Ulster Council issued a statement saying it had agreed that it “would be impossible to support or recommend the Derry 2013 fleadh bid, due to the recent dissident threats”.

While dissident republicans carried out two bomb attacks in Derry last week, the Ulster Council decision caused shock and consternation among Derry supporters.

There has been some disquiet recently among members of Comhaltas in Derry and the wider Ulster Council over having the fleadh associated with a year-long cultural festival that has “UK” in its title.

They say they were advised that there was no need to attend the Ulster Council meeting as the decision to support Derry was a mere “formality”.

Local Sinn Féin and SDLP expressed astonishment and dismay at the decision.

The head of Comhaltas, Fianna Fáil senator Labhrás Ó Murchú, said opposition to Derry hosting the event appeared to “see-saw” over the “UK City of Culture” title and the dissidents.

He said the central executive of Comhaltas had met the PSNI, Derry City Council, and business and community leaders last year and was satisfied Derry was well-placed to host the fleadh.

“We feel the statement that was put out had political undertones, and we want to clarify that we are non-political and non-sectarian, and have always been like that. We feel that Derry city and Ulster are as much entitled to put in an application as any other province,” Mr Ó Murchú said.

“I have received 51 emails regretting what happened, from all over Ireland, and from Canada, the US, and the UK...all absolutely shocked at what happened at the meeting. I have not had one single email supporting the decision.

“There are all kinds of wrong messages being sent out. There is the political undertone but we must also think of the different religious groupings who enjoy the tradition and have enjoyed it through the Troubles,” said Mr Ó Murchú.