Doubts have been cast on the All-Ireland Fleadh coming to Derry in 2013 after a members of the Irish music organisation Comhaltas failed to agree on the issue, taking issue over the UK City of Culture title.
Sinn Féin Junior Minister, Martina Anderson has voiced her concerns that there are discordant voices at work in an attempt to undermine Derry’s bid to host the all-Ireland Fleadh in 2013.
Some county Derry members opposed the hosting of the event, but that city members wished to host the event, which attracts a quarter of a million people, in Derry. However, the bid cannot proceed without the local delegates' full approval.
Martina Anderson said:“I am disappointed and annoyed that there are individuals locally within Comhaltas determined to undermine Derry’s bid to host the all-Ireland Fleadh in 2013. This is the largest Irish cultural gathering in the world and everyone with the slightest interest in Irish Culture or History should be putting all of their energy and commitment into ensuring that we are successful in our efforts to host this prestigious event.
“The spurious reasons that those opposed to the bid are using to derail the bid are so ludicrous that it beggars belief. Their only objection seems to be the UK prefix to the working title of the series of events that will encompass the ‘City of Culture’ year long festival in 2013. While I can understand and empathise with the sentiments of those who object to this prefix, I do not understand, nor do I agree that we should therefore surrender the opportunity to showcase the fact that Derry is historically the epicentre of Irish Culture and history.
“Everyone who is proud of the Irishness of our City, while at the same time respecting the cultural diversity within it, needs to cooperate to ensure that it is portrayed throughout the world as the City of Irish Cultural and historical significance that it is.
“If successful in their objections the small minority opposed to this bid will be self-defeating as without a strong Irish Cultural flavour to the events they will only succeed in allowing our historic Irish City to be portrayed throughout the world as a ‘City of UK Culture’ devoid of Irishness . The only way to neutralise the UK prefix – which I doubt if anyone outside of here will take any notice of - is to take ownership of the project by making sure that the events that will make an impact on the world stage are those reflecting the reality that this is an ‘Irish City of Culture’ regardless of working titles or tags.
“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 unmistakingly Irish.”
Meanwhile local MP Mark Durkan said that he strongly supported the bid for Derry to hold Fleadh.
“Along with the representatives of other parties, sectors and bodies I took part in the civic panel which met Comhaltas representatives in Derry in late November. 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.
“The world standing and renowned quality of the Fleadh is due of course to the work and values of Comhaltas na hÉireann. In all my support for this bid I am particularly sensitive to the integrity of Comhaltas’s ethos and procedures and the understandable sensitivity to protect their ownership of the Fleadh wherever it might be hosted.
“In continuing to encourage Comhaltas members and delegates whether in the city, the county, provincially or nationally, I will continue to respect their processes and the special standing of the All-Ireland Fleadh. 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.
“Undue controversy badly aired might only make some more averse to committing to a decision which would not just mark a breakthrough for Derry but also for the Fleadh as an all-Ireland event honouring and enjoyed by all Ireland’s traditions.”
If the All-Ireland Fleadh Derry bid is successful, it will be the first time the event has been in Northern Ireland.