Belfast Telegraph

Drive on for Derry to hook All-Ireland Fleadh again

BY DONNA DEENEY

The All-Ireland Fleadh has yet to reach its final crescendo – but already plans have started to bring the world's biggest celebration of Irish culture back to Londonderry.

The city is hosting what is being hailed as the the largest festival in the fleadh's 60-year history, and the first north of the border.

And tens of thousands more are continuing to arrive for the weekend finale.

Derry says goodbye to the fleadh tomorrow but the city fathers know already the event has been a game-changer.

Fleadh co-ordinator Gearoid O hEara said it has exceeded all expectations.

"We are very pleased with the crowds coming to the city, and by the way the people of the city have responded to the fleadh," he said.

"People have been arriving in their tens of thousands and that will grow as the fleadh reaches its peak.

"This could well be the biggest fleadh ever in the history of Comhaltas Ceolteoiri Eireann and it is pretty clear now it won't be the last fleadh in Derry."

Realistically, it would be 2016 at the earliest before the fleadh could return to Derry, as it moves to Sligo next year and possibly 2015 as well.

Meanwhile, music fans are looking forward to a spectacular closing at Ebrington Square tomorrow.

Until then, music sessions will continue all over the city, in pubs, restaurants and on streets which have been packed with people every night this week.

Mobile stages at Victoria Market, Ebrington, and the Gasyard are still in full swing, with performances from some of the biggest names in traditional music from Ireland and beyond.

City centre manager Jim Roddy said Derry has set new standards for hosting major events.

"This week we have the fleadh and last week there was the Maiden City Festival, two big celebrations of different cultures and both have been an enormous success," he said.

"The city has reached new heights in terms of hospitality, self-belief and in terms of business.

"Every single person in Derry has been acting like an ambassador for the city but the tens of thousands of visitors who are with us now will go home and they will be ambassadors for the city as well.

"The good name of Derry will reach into every part of Ireland, UK, Europe, America and Australia.

"Among the visitors will undoubtedly be potential investors and they will not fail to have been impressed."

Mayor of Derry Martin Reilly added: "The fleadh has been a huge success to date and we are delighted that all the agencies have been working successfully together.

"We are confident that city businesses, accommodation providers and retailers will be reaping the benefits of having hundreds of thousands of music lovers and festival-goers in the city centre."

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