Those behind the bid to bring the All-Ireland fleadh to Derry in 2013 have insisted that their plans are “still on track” despite a bitter row over whether the city should host the event during the City of Culture celebrations.
The Derry county board of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann held a five-hour meeting on Wednesday night to discuss the bid by the Derry city branch of Comhaltas to host the international event - which would bring an estimated 300,000 visitors and £40 million to the city.
The meeting ended in deadlock after objectors to the bid, mainly from Comhaltas branches from south Derry, refused to endorse it. The objectors said the fleadh should not be held in Derry during the UK City of Culture year in 2013.
The director general of Comhaltas, Labhrás Ó Murchú, an enthusisatic supporter of Derry’s bid, was also in the city for the meeting, along with other key members of the organisation’s national executive.
The meeting has now been rescheduled for January 18th - giving supporters of the bid just two weeks to galvanise support at county board level.
The chairperson of the city branch of Comhaltas, Eibhlín Ní Dhochartaigh, said that despite the controversy, she remains hopeful that Derry can still host the fleadh. “I am aware that there are issues of concern and we are trying to address those. As chair of the Derry branch putting in the bid we are still absolutely on track. We are working hard and we will do our best to deliver for Derry,” she said.
Junior Minister Martina Anderson described the arguments of those opposed to the bid as “incomprehensible”.
“The spurious reasons that those opposed to the bid are using to derail the bid are so ludicrous that it beggars belief. I appeal to those individuals who are organising objections to our bid to reflect on the damage they are doing to their own cause and the lost opportunity to showcase not just their Irish cultural offering to the world but Derry and the North West as unmistakeably Irish,” she said.
Foyle MP Mark Durkan called for an end to the dispute and said hosting the festival would be a major accolade for Derry.
“The Fleadh is a major global Irish event and that is why it would strongly crown the international City of Culture appeal which Derry can offer in 2013.
“I do not believe that speculation, finger-pointing or recrimination from outside Comhaltas will be particularly helpful in overcoming any inhibitions which might lie anywhere in Comhaltas about the context of Derry’s bid,” he said.
No-one from the branches opposing the bid was prepared to comment on the meeting. The decision on where the fleadh will be hosted will be made on January 28th.