Anger as Ulster Council throws out Derry bid

The decision of the Ulster Council to refuse to ratify Derry’s bid to host the All-Ireland Fleadh in 2013 was greeted with anger in Derry yesterday.

The city’s political leaders expressed shock at the decision, which the Ulster Council said was based on the security threat posed by dissident republicans.

Junior Minister Martina Anderson and Foyle MP Mark Durkan, both of whom have been lobbying in support of Derry’s bid, said they were disappointed by the news.

Ms Anderson said: “The decision where to place the All-Ireland Fleadh is first and foremost one for Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann (CCE) and its members. As a political representative in Derry I have been lobbying strongly for the event to be brought to the city. But this is not a political event and I respect absolutely the right of the CCE membership to have their say on the location of the Fleadh.

“Not surprisingly it is my view that Derry would be an ideal location for the event. There was considerable support within Comhaltas in the city to host the Fleadh. Others within CCE hold a different view and it has now been decided by the Officer Board of the Ulster Council not to support the Derry bid.

“While that is extremely disappointing for Derry and for those of us who have been working hard on this bid the only way the All-Ireland Fleadh can come to Derry is by working closely with the various tiers of Comhaltas structures and ultimately the Ard Comhaile of the CCE will decide on the location of the Fleadh.”

The Foyle MLA also said she will continue her efforts to support the city’s bid.

“In the coming days I will again meet with representatives of CCE to establish if we as a city can make any further efforts to deal with any genuine concerns being expressed by Comhaltas members about the ability of the city to successfully host the Fleadh,” she said.

Foyle MP Mark Durkan described the decision as “perverse.”

“This decision comes as a blow to all the people in Derry who have been working so positively towards hosting Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in 2013,” he said.

“It is also a blow to all those in Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann who would want to decide on Derry’s bid alongside other towns on the best grounds for this unique event and all it represents.

“In all circumstances this will be seen as a perverse decision whose negativity would reward a violent agenda and reject valiant civic and cultural ambitions.

“I know that many members of Comhaltas will be perplexed that such controversy and negativity is being attached to their processes and the highly reputed international festival of which they are so rightly proud,” he added.

Mr Durkan also called on the national leadership of Comhaltas to review the decision. “The broad Derry public will want to encourage the wider membership of Comhaltas to receive Derry’s bid on its best motives, see the special strength of its offer and judge it truly and fairly alongside other worthy proposals,” he said.

The director general of Comhaltas, Labhrás Ó Murchú, said he was surprised that security has now become an issue. “We discussed this issue with the police chief and with the city centre manager. We were very happy with what we heard,” he said.