Belfast Telegraph

Call to host Fleadh north of border

Northern Ireland's First and Deputy First Minister have thrown their weight behind efforts to bring Ireland's second biggest festival north of the border for the first time.

Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness have written a joint letter to organisers of Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann urging them to award it to Derry in 2013 to coincide with its year as UK city of culture.

More than a quarter of a million people are attending the traditional music festival this week in Cavan town with big efforts being made to include northern Unionist culture.

The official Fleadh parade this evening includes Lambeg drums and the Cullybackey pipe band playing airs such as Hound of Ulster and the Battle's O'er.

Senator Labhras O Murchu, president of organising body Comhaltas Ceoltoiri na hEireann, met Stormont Culture Minister Caral Ni Chuilin in Belfast to discuss prospects for the Fleadh heading north.

"We just emphasised the proactive role that Comhaltas has had in recent years in trying to bring the traditional music to a wider audience. We always believed that," he said. "The more we can do that, the more it will promote good relations and peace building. I've always been very strong of the view that it would be the pinnacle when the Fleadh crosses the border - we owe it to the people of Northern Ireland."

Comhaltas described the letter from the First and Deputy First Minister as a strong endorsement of the Derry/Londonderry 2013 UK City of Culture. If successful it would be the first time in its 61st year Northern Ireland plays host to the Fleadh.

As well as the inevitable tourism boost that the Fleadh generates, it is also estimated to be worth about 35 million euro (£30 million) to the local economy.

Thirty-one votes from Comhaltas branches in Ireland, Britain and North America decide where the Fleadh goes each year.

Jack Keyes, Cavan County manager, said: "There's a huge emphasis in this year's Fleadh on peace building and including the different traditions from both sides of the border," he said. "It lifts the hearts and spirits of people. It really does help... the days of being worried about loss of language and loss of culture are long gone when you see what happens here."

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