Dissident bombs blamed for collapse of Derry fleadh 2013 bid

Traditional musicians
Image caption The fleadh would have coincided with Londonderry's year as UK City of Culture

Dissident republican violence has put paid to plans for the first all-Ireland fleadh to be staged in Derry, an Irish traditional music body has claimed.

Comhaltas said it was impossible to support the city's bid to host the popular music and dance festival because of the danger.

The fleadh would have been staged in Derry's year as UK City of Culture.

But the UK link to the traditional Irish event had already proved a stumbling block with some members.

There was severe disruption in the city last week after dissident republicans left two bombs that exploded.

The UK City of Culture organisers had been pushing to bring the fleadh to Northern Ireland for the first time ever in 2013.

Comhaltas promotes traditional Irish music and culture around the world. At a meeting of Derry Comhaltas last Wednesday, members voted was 13-1 in favour of the bid.

Some comhaltas members, who initially opposed the move because of the UK link in Derry's City of Culture 2013 title, did not attend. The bid then went to the Comhaltas Ulster Council to be ratified.

It said that with "deep regret and long consideration", it was turning down the bid because safety was paramount.

Chairman of the Derry County Board, Brendan Molloy said no members of the local branches attended that meeting and he was shocked when he heard the decision.

"I got a text on my phone to say: 'Sorry the bid didn't go through this time'," he said.

"A statement was emailed to me from a Comhaltas employee. It did not come from a member of the Ulster Council.

"Up until a few days ago we were going to go to that meeting and we had requested that the branch come to put the bid forward. We were told that was not necessary.

"I am shocked, totally and utterly."

Image caption Two bombs exploded in Derry last week

Director general of Comhaltas Labhras O Murchu said he was surprised by the decision.

"At a previous meeting of the full Ulster Council a unanimous decision was made to support the Derry bid.

"Yesterday was not a full meeting. The seven people who met yesterday voted to overturn what the Ulster Council had already decided.

"Is that valid itself? We're covered by a constitution and all units of Comhaltas must adhere to the rule," he said.

Appeal decision

The Derry County Board of Comhaltas said they would appeal. Chair of the Derry City branch , Eibhlin ni Doherty, who backed the bid, said they had been badly let down.

"They should have been supportive of a branch within their province.

"They should have worked with us and listened to us when we have been working so hard all along," she said.

Sinn Fein MLA Martina Anderson said she did not accept the Ulster Council's decision was based on security concerns.

"I think the reasons have been aired in relation to the year that is in it - because it is the year of the City of Culture," she said.

"Those are some reasons, but there are other people who have genuine concerns."

In a statement the PSNI said: "Police recently took part in a discussion with a number of groups about the possibility of the fleadh coming to Derry in 2013.

"Such an event would no doubt be enjoyed by many, enhance the city's image and bring a welcome boost to the local economy.

It is not for police to comment on the detail of the discussion, however, we can say that any security concerns that exist in Northern Ireland should not prevent the fleadh taking place in Derry."

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