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Frank Whelan, Fleadh 2017 chairman. Photograph by John Kelly.

€125,000 fleadh debt outstanding

THE final meeting of the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann Executive Committee, which was held in Cois na hAbhna in recent weeks, heard that the 2017 national event, which was held in Ennis, is currently in debt to the tune of €125,000.

The Clare Champion has learned that the national executive was approached and asked to help defray costs, but it has refused.

At the meeting, a representative from Comhaltas headquarters said it was “unprecedented” that a national fleadh lost so much money.

The meeting was told there was a current debt of €125,000 but a written report was not circulated. Delegates, however, were “sworn to secrecy”.

Fleadh committee chairman, Frank Whelan did not dispute that the €125,000 figure is currently accurate but he said that organisers are owed money.

“We’re still in the process of getting in money. There is money outstanding. When the event is over, it’s much harder to get it in but we are working on it,” he said.

“We have €125,000 and more outstanding. We have grants to draw down and that is all taking time. Our plan is to break even and I believe that is what will happen. It’s taking a little longer than we hoped but we’ll get there,” he added.

Mr Whelan also confirmed that the committee will issue a detailed financial breakdown.

“We’ll be giving a full report, once everything is settled,” he said.

While the fleadh attracted huge visitor numbers, The Clare Champion understands that one of the reasons for the current debt was that too many concerts were staged.  A Wolfe Tones concert in an Ennis hotel attracted “25 people” according to one source.

Other issues included the fact that participants who placed third in the provincial competitions did not qualify for the national event this year, which, it is claimed, cost revenue of about €40,000.

“They also lost on the park and ride because nobody parked and rode. Everyone brought their car in and they found spaces,” a source told The Clare Champion.

It has not been revealed what contribution Ennis vintners gave to the fleadh committee.

Comhaltas branches in Clare have refused to help out in covering the current debt.

The week-long Munster fleadh is due to be held in Ennis next July, while it is likely that Ennis will also stage the Clare fleadh.

Elsewhere, at the county fleadh competition in Kilrush, The Clare Champion has also learned that some judges were brought in from Manchester and London to officiate at this year’s event, including a marching band judge, although there was no marching band competition.

Peter O’Connell

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