Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Off-key fleadh call should be reversed

It is difficult to imagine a more fitting site for the first UK City of Culture than Londonderry.

There is something in its rich history and traditions which can appeal to all sections of this community and it has found ways of accommodating differing cultures which - in spite of occasional problems - have set an example to many. It is sad, therefore, that one major cultural event, the All-Ireland Fleadh, which the city had hoped to host next year, is now in jeopardy.

Just why it may not come to the city is a matter of some controversy at present. Although the Derry branch of Comhaltas na hEireann is backing the city's application it has been turned down by the Ulster board of the organisation. The reason given is security concerns, but some suspect a darker motive, the fact that Derry is the UK City of Culture, the British link being enough to get the city black-balled.

If the Ulster branch is concerned about security, its grounds for doing so are somewhat shaky. Even the PSNI which has had to deal with dissident bombings in the city say the terrorist threat does not warrant the fleadh going elsewhere. So too do political and civic leaders who are well tuned into feelings on the ground. Just seven members of the Ulster Board took the decision to say no to Derry and the full governing body of the organisation is concerned about the validity of that decision.

This is a once in a generation opportunity for Derry to host this prestigious cultural event which could bring as much as £40m into the local economy.

It is also an opportunity to showcase what the fleadh is all about and to bring it to a more diverse audience than it would normally have - the very reason for being a city of culture.

This is a time for Comhaltas na hEireann to demonstrate that it wants to be as all-embracing as possible and to bring its event to a city steeped in culture.

It should rescind the Ulster board's decision as quickly as possible.

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