Galway City sets sights on All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil

Galway may host Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann for the first time in 2020.

Galway will be applying to host Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in 2020, a festival that could boost city coffers to the tune of €50m.

Never before held in Galway City, the massive event was only ever staged in County Galway in 1955 when it took place in Loughrea.

The application to host the event in the city is being made by the Moycullen branch of Galway Comhaltas. The chairman of the Moycullen branch, Caomhan Ó Fatharta, told the Galway City Tribune they were laying the groundwork for their application by manning a stand at the All-Ireland Fleadh in Ennis from August 9, urging other counties to throw their support behind the bid.

The branch has received a commitment from NUI Galway to host the event in three years’ time after successfully holding the county final last year, with plans to hold the Connacht finals there next year.

“Galway never had the facilities to apply for this before but now the university has two big halls – the Bailey Allen and the Kingfisher – that can hold 2,200 people. We will possibly need a third venue such as the Big Top which holds 1,000,” explained Caomhan.

“We have a lot of work done on this in the Moycullen branch. We’re trying to sort out meetings with the City Council, County Council and councillors to all get behind this as well as the 2020 team because of the enormous cost implications of staging this – it costs €800,000 to run.

“But we plan to definitely submit an application for 2020 after this year’s All-Ireland.”

The spin-offs are huge. In 2013 the jamboree of music, song and dance went north for the first time to Derry City, which staged the biggest event ever held in Comhaltas’ history when 430,000 attended.

There is no reason why Galway could not be even bigger.

Ennis will stage the event this year and next, with a destination yet to be decided for 2018 and 2019. Sligo was the venue for the past two years.

The venue is decided by votes from branches from across the county and internationally. The week before the Fleadh – which generally takes place on the second or third week of August – is also a hive of activity as young musicians undertake week-long tutoring.

Peadar Brick, chairperson of the Galway Comhaltas, declined to comment ahead of a meeting on the issue next week.

He did point out that NUIG boasted the most appropriate facilities in the county as they were compact, capable of holding large crowds with 20 venues on site for different competitions.

The event is generally held in a location for two years in a row. Due to its timing, it will not clash with the other flagship events in the city such as the Galway International Arts Festival or the Galway Races.

Recently the head of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann told the Galway City Tribune that he would welcome an application to host a future Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in Galway City.

Labhrás Ó Murchú, director-general of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, remarked: ”Galway City is a wonderful place, it’s such a vibrant city in so many ways because of the language and being so close to the Connemara Gaeltacht and it’s so compact – that’s why Derry was so successful, everything was near together.

“Personally, I spent my younger days in the Connemara Gaeltacht and we used to come into Galway City. I’ve often thought, gosh, wouldn’t this be a great location for the Fleadh Cheoil. The fact that Galway is well used to holding big events like the Galway Races is another Brownie point for Galway that it could well handle large crowds.”