By Jessica Quinn
ENNIS has yet again missed out on its chance to host Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann, with next year’s event awarded to Sligo for the second year in-a-row at the weekend’s selection convention.
Despite the disappointment, those behind Ennis’ bid have already set their sights on 2016, saying they are “very hopeful” that their “strong application” will bring success for the town and the county.
Chairperson of the working group for the Ennis’ All Ireland Fleadh bid Micheál O’Riabhaigh acknowledged that while there is disappointment that Ennis did not get next year’s festival it was not unexpected.
“It was always going to be hard to displace Sligo for a second year. 2014 is the first year for Sligo and there would have been an expectation that they would get it for the second year. It would have been surprising had we got it to be honest but we took the position of going for it as aggressively as possible,” he said.
He added, “We believe that we have a very good, solid plan and our application is very strong.”
Comhaltas in Clare and the working group are now looking to 2016 and the following year to welcome the Fleadh which would be worth millions to the local economy.
“There is always a chance that it wouldn’t come our way but we would be very hopeful. We have a very good chance now. For the last couple of years it has really been between ourselves and Sligo, Sligo would have just edged us last year.
“We are very hopeful that 2016 will be the year for Ennis. I would love to say that I am confident, but it is still a secret ballot and it still takes a fair bit of work canvassing and that to make the case. I think we have a very strong case, a very strong application and a very strong team,” he acknowledged.
At this week’s meeting of Ennis East Electoral Area, Councillor Pat Daly urged that “every effort” be made to bring the Fleadh to Ennis in 2016.
Acknowledging that the local authorities have strongly supported the efforts of the working group, he called on more councillors to get involved in lobbying.
“This is in everyone’s interest. We need to go all out to get 2016. Dublin will probably try and get it for the anniversary of 1916, but Clare is the home of music. We need to work with comhaltas on this,” he said.
However, responding to Councillor Daly’s comments, Mr Ó Riábhaigh acknowledged that the support of the local authority has been extremely important. He does not believe that lobbying by individual councillors would be effective.
“The constituency of voters is very small, 29 or 30 people in the main committee for comhaltas who are deeply involved in comhaltas. Their focus is on evaluating the town on specific criteria. I am not sure they would be amiable to general canvassing by people who possibly wouldn’t have the insight into comhaltas and what the Fleadh is as an event, as against the benefits that it would bring to the town.”
He went on, “It is extremely important that the council would be seen to support it. The support we have had from the local authorities has been excellent. I have to compliment them on sticking with it, you would expect them to be disappointed after a couple of rejections but they see the value of it and they also see it’s a difficult thing to achieve.”
Town manager Ger Dollard, speaking at the Ennis East Electoral Area meeting in response to Councillor Daly’s call, said, “The council have been very supportive of bringing the Fleadh Cheoil to Ennis. We have worked with the local committee, but the decision is for comhaltas and it is outside of our domain.”
Councillor Tommy Brennan pointed out that officials from both Ennis Town Council and Clare County Council, and both mayors, have been very involved in the town’s bid for the Fleadh.
He added, “Money has not been spared in making applications.”