HUNDREDS of businesses will be waiting anxiously this Saturday for a final decision on whether or not Clare will be tuning up for a €30 million Fleadh Cheoil windfall in 2016.
Securing what is regarded as the largest traditional music festival in the world, which would attract an estimated 350,000 visitors to Ennis and neighbouring towns in August 2016, would provide a major boost in the coffers of local traders.
Efforts to host the lucrative 2016 Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann competition got a significant shot in the arm recently after a submission from a local branch defeated Cork City by 11 votes to nine in a new regional final.
For the first time ever, counties had to submit their plans for hosting this money-spinning event against other competing counties in some provinces and Clare’s bid, which was in the name of the Abbey branch in Ennis, triumphed with two votes to spare.
Ennis is now in a three-horse race involving Sligo, who are hosting the All-Ireland showpiece in August for the second successive year, and Drogheda.
It is expected that a decision will be made by the 31-member Ard Comhairle of Comhaltas Ceoiltóirí Éireann on Saturday afternoon.
A final pitch to secure the Fleadh for Ennis was made by a coalition of business and local authority representatives in Clare County Council’s headquarters last Saturday.
Micheál O Riabhaigh, who is chairman of the working group, is “very hopeful” of success, after the Clare presentation received very positive feedback from the visiting standing committee. With up to 21 venues earmarked in Ennis, including Cois na hAbhna, Glór and local schools, he believes the county town is ideally placed to meet Comhaltas’ requirements.
The last time Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann was in Ennis was 1977. People remember the 1956 Fleadh too, made forever famous by Robbie McMahon’s The Fleadh Down in Ennis.
Two years is the usual stint for a town to stage the fleadh. However, Cavan hosted the festival for three years, which shows a precedence for allowing a county to stage it for more than two years.
Mayor of Ennis Councillor Johnny Flynn said he was hugely impressed with the work of the sub-committee and the Abbey branch, while Clare County Council Cathaoirleach, John Crowe, noted, “Comhaltas can count on the people of this county to fully support the Fleadh should it be awarded to Ennis.
“We have seen time and time again, whether it is at the Ennis Trad Fest, the Willie Clancy Summer School or the Feakle International Traditional Music Festival, that Clare people will come out in their thousands to support these events.
“In Clare, we love our traditional music. It is the beating heart of The Banner County. It is engrained in our culture and in every community the length and breadth of the county. To be awarded the Fleadh would be recognition of Clare’s lengthy association with Irish traditional music and would most certainly be a very proud moment for every man, woman and child associated with the county – both at home and abroad,” he continued.
“The people of Ennis and Clare are ready, willing and able to pick up the Fleadh Cheoil torch that has, for so many years, been a shining light for the Irish traditional music scene. This includes the staff of Clare County Council and my council colleagues,” he said.
Chief executive of Clare County Council, Tom Coughlan, stated how he has made presentations to Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann on a number of occasions in the past and on this occasion, Ennis, because of the significant investment and planned investments over the next 18 months, as well as improvements in connectivity to and from Clare, is now an even more suitable location for the Fleadh.
Mr Coughlan also committed the support of the executive of Clare County Council to Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann.