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Fleadh bows to pressure and gives money back to Shell

Brian McDonald - Irish Times

Decision to accept sponsorship funding was strongly criticised by Mayo campaign group

File image of the Fleadh Cheoil taking place in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh/The Irish Times

The organisers of Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann have bowed to pressure and rejected sponsorship of the annual traditional music festival by oil giant, Shell.

The Standing Committee of Fleadh 2014 which takes place in Sligo throughout next week took the decision at a meeting today.

The committee had come under severe pressure after the Shell to Sea group strongly criticised the decision to accept sponsorship from Shell in light of the controversy surrounding its development of the Corrib Gas field off the neighbouring north Mayo coast.

Shell to Sea, which has actively opposed the massive gas terminal and pipeline project in Bellanaboy, accused Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann of prostituting itself and reneging on its ideal of promoting peace.

The group also claimed that Comhaltas had put President Higgins in the “awkward position” of formally opening an event sponsored by Shell. The President spoke out on a number of occasions before his election on the impact of the Shell development on the lives of local people.

Comhaltas is the regulatory body for traditional Irish music and each year decides where the Fleadh will be held. A local committee organises the event and runs it on a day to day basis.

The annual Fleadh Cheoil is the biggest traditional Irish music festival and involves the participation of 8,000 performers in 250 events. It is expected to draw an attendance of up to 250,000 to the week-long programme of concerts, sessions and competitions in Sligo next week.

The formal opening of the event by President Higgins takes place in the town at 5pm next Sunday.

A press release initially posted on the Fleadh website pointed out that it was dependent on sponsorship, was not for profit and was run by voluntary committees.

It stressed that the Fleadh was run by very diverse sectors and community groups throughout Sligo and across the country who were contributing their time and efforts voluntarily.

But a number of those scheduled to take part in the Fleadh are known to have been strongly opposed to the Shell sponsorship.

Renowned musician and authority on Irish music, Gregory Daly had been scheduled to give a talk as well as play at one of the major concerts during the Fleadh.

Mr Daly, who works at the Coleman Traditional Irish Music Centre in Gurteen, Co Sligo, pointed out that he had been a long-time supporter of the local people in the parish of Kilcommon in north Mayo in their opposition to the Shell project.

“I was booked as a musician and also to give a talk at the Fleadh but when I became aware of the Shell sponsorship I decided not to take part.

“I told them that under no circumstances would I consider doing anything at the Fleadh under the banner of the Shell sponsorship. But now I am glad to hear that the offer has been rejected”, he said.

In a statement the organising committee of Fleadh 2014 confirmed that the sponsorship would now be returned to Shell.

It said: “In keeping with the ethos of the Fleadh as an inclusive, community-driven and family-focused event and to avoid any unnecessary distractions on the eve of the festival, we have respectfully decided to return the financial support received from Shell.

“We look forward to welcoming all of our visitors to Sligo for Fleadh Cheoil 2014”.

The statement added that no further comment would be made.

Posted Date: 
6 August 2014