Strong endorsement for Mullingar Fleadh bid

Mullingar has moved a step closer to hosting the 2020 Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann after they won a crucial vote at provincial level last Sunday in Clontarf Castle, Dub­lin.

The Mullingar bid secured 20 votes and were resounding winners in the first round, with Wexford (6), Portlaoise (4) and Tullamore (4) some way behind.

The challenge now moves on to national level and Mullingar will attempt to convince the Ard Comhairle of Comhaltas Ceoltoirí Éireann (CCÉ) that it is best equipped to host the 2020 Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann, although they are expected to face a considerable challenge from Cork and its Douglas bid.

Victory for the Mullingar bid over Cork next March could well see the massive national celebration of Irish music song and dance held in Mullingar for two years, in 2020 and 2021, the latter of course the 70th Anniversary of the founding of Comhaltas Ceoltoirí Éireann in Mullingar in 1951.

Sunday’s victory was a resounding one, and to celebrate, the Mullingar and Westmeath group returned to the Mullingar Park Hotel last Sunday evening where a wonderful seisiún took place.

Willie Penrose, Vice-Chairman of Westmeath CCÉ, said Sunday’s victory was a great endorsement of the strategy adopted by the group bidding to bring the fleadh home.

“It was a wonderful achievement and we had about 40 musicians who gathered in the Mullingar Park Hotel on Sunday evening for what was a memorable seisiún,” he said.

The group had six speakers at the crucial Leinster meeting in Clontarf, including Noel Battle, Comhaltas President, Pat Gallagher, CEO Westmeath County Council, Joe Connaire, Chairman of Westmeath CCÉ, Padraic Keena, Ballymore, Aoife Moynihan, granddaughter of two of the founders of Comhaltas, and Willie Penrose. All six spoke passionately about the Mullingar bid.

After the 34 votes were cast, they had done enough to secure 20 precious votes and the first major hurdle was cleared.

“We now have to start all over again, in effect, as we have to bring the Ard Comhairle to Mullingar and show them the wonderful setting we have here and the great facilities that are in place to host the national fleadh. There has been a great response from the business community of Mullingar and a major impression was made when the Leinster delegates visited the town, hence the strong endorsement we received last Sunday,” remarked Willie Penrose.

It has been a long journey since the idea was first mooted at Dun na Sí in Moate in September 2016 by Willie Penrose and while there were tentative nods of agreement back then, the Westmeath and Mullingar bid is now very much in the reckoning.

It’s believed that its central location in the heart of Ireland will be a major help if all counties are, as expected, thinking strategically. Furthermore, Mullingar has not hosted the Fleadh since 1963, so it’s certainly time to bring the national event back to its original birthplace.

“Joe Connaire and I had a vision and set it in place; we have always had this dream and Mick Foster and Noel Battle encouraged us. We remained very positive about it and it shows where positivity can bring you,” remarked Willie Penrose.

Joe Connaire said the group is very positive about bringing Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann to Mullingar and that it will benefit the town and the county enormously. Their passion and desire to bring the major national and international event to the town is unwavering, he said, and it will be a great fillip for the town and county.

It’s understood Ard Comhairle delegates may visit Mullingar early in the new year, possibly January, to view the facilities and further consider the midlands location.