A bid to host the All Ireland Fleadh in Armagh past its first hurdle at the local council on Monday night but it was vehemently opposed by the DUP.
There is fierce competition to host the All Ireland Fleadh each year as it attracts thousands of visitors and musiciaans from across the world.
At Monday night’s meeting Sinn Fein welcomed the success of their motion, tabled by the party’s group leader Darren McNally, which asked council to investigate the feasibility and economic benefits of hosting the Fleadh Cheoil Na hEireann in Armagh.
Cllr McNally said it would be ‘a massive economic boost for the entire borough’ with a potential £80m for the economy. “I believe Armagh would be a very fitting venue given the rich ancient heritage and culture the city possesses’”#
However DUP Cllr Mark Baxter said: ““We are hugely disappointed that we were the only party to vote against this potential colossal spend by council in these very tough economic times. The other parties were quite happy to task officers to investigate bringing the Fleadh Cheoil to Armagh despite the huge cost involved.”
“Ironically it was only three weeks ago that Sinn Fein refused to back another much smaller proposal for a community event citing a lack of council resources. I would question in the strongest possible terms the economic benefits and the motives for bringing such an event and why the UUP and Sinn Fein are so keen to bring the event to Armagh which has in the past had some very controversial artists. Indeed we all can point to similar festivals recently held in Belfast where its very clear that ‘unionists’ were not welcome with Pro-IRA chanting and bands imploring the British to “go back home.
“I would call on councillors to reflect on this wanton disregard for the public purse and remind them of their responsibilities in delivering first class services for best value. The DUP make no apology for being the champions of low rates in council.”
Sinn Fein Cllr Liam Mackle dismissed claims by the DUP‘s Mark Baxter that the motion committed council to a massive spend as untrue.
He said: “The passing of this motion gives council officers the freedom to engage with numerous stakeholders holders including Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann who organise the Fleadh Cheoil to get a better understanding of what’s expected of any host venue, Council officers will bring back a report to committee following engagements with local businesses, hospitality sector, community groups and traditional musicians, where Councillors can have an informed debate on its feasibility.
“We have seen the DUP on ABC council spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on a whim - on events with no economic benefit to our borough. Their behaviour is somewhat childish, compared to the mature approach of this motion.”