CLARE could be tuning up for a €30 million Fleadh Cheoil windfall in 2016, after a bid to secure the return festival to the Banner County got a major boost.
Efforts to host the lucrative 2016 Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann competition in Ennis got a significant shot in the arm after a submission from the local branch defeated Cork City by 11 votes to nine.
For the first time ever, counties have to submit their plans for hosting the event and Clare’s bid, which was in the name of the Abbey branch in Ennis, triumphed, with two votes to spare. It is expected a final decision on the current shortlist will be made next March.
Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann was last held in Ennis in 1977. People always remember the 1956 Fleadh too, made famous by the Robbie McMahon song, The Fleadh Down in Ennis.
Ennis is now in a three-horse race involving Sligo, who are hosting the All-Ireland showpiece in 2015, and Drogheda. Sligo has applied to host the music festival again in 2016 and their bid for a three-in-a-row could hinge on how successful next year’s event proves to be.
Having lost out narrowly in recent years, Frank Whelan, of Cois na hAbhna, says Clare Comhaltas is hopeful the 38-year wait to host the fleadh will end in 2016.
“Ennis will face strong opposition from Sligo, which is also a county with a very strong musical tradition. As the current All-Ireland host town, Sligo has a distinct advantage when it comes to deciding who will host it in 2016.
“Securing the fleadh would be a huge boost for tourism-related businesses and accommodation providers in Ennis, as well as towns and villages in West and East Clare,” he said.
Clare businesses will be hoping that history does not repeat itself, as Clare was pipped at the post by just one vote by Sligo in 1990, before another unsuccessful attempt was made in 2012, which also had local authority backing.
Councillor Pat Daly said landing the All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil is long overdue, considering the county’s rich tradition of producing brilliant musicians.
He believes Ennis would be an ideal location for hosting the fleadh and that it would generate a great tourism spin-off for the whole county.
He urged Clare Comhaltas to work with the county council and business and tourism representatives, to secure the staging of the competition.
Director of services, Ger Dollard said the council has been working with other partners on a project to secure the fleadh for about four years.
“The council is satisfied that the detailed preparatory work that has been undertaken and the detailed bid that has been put in place leaves no doubt that Ennis and County Clare is well capable of hosting such a flagship event.
“Cathaoirleach, Councillor John Crowe and the chief executive, Tom Coughlan, have demonstrated the council’s support for the event through ongoing participation in the working group and through their attendance at many presentations to Comhaltas representatives, both here in Clare and in Dublin, to push the case for Ennis.
“The decision-making process, however, is entirely a matter for Comhaltas and the overall staging and management of the event falls within the remit of the local Comhaltas organisation.
“The council welcomes the formal ratification of Clare’s bid by the Munster branch, which is a new stage in the selection process. The council remains fully supportive towards securing Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann for the county and will continue to work constructively with the overall working group to help in achieving that outcome,” he said.