Fleadh facing major funding shortfall

With less than 100 days to go before the start of the 2023 Fleadh Cheoil, the chair of the organising committee has called on local businesses to put their hands in their pockets to help with a significant funding shortfall.

Speaking to the Westmeath Examiner just days before the government announced additional funding of €100,000, chair Joe Connaire said that while preparations for this year’s event are going well, he has been disappointed by the response from some members of the business community.

The committee has to raise €1.7m to cover the operating costs of hosting the fleadh and with under three months remaining until it starts, Mr Connaire said that he has had “sleepless nights” wondering if they will be able to raise the final €300,000.

“We are a voluntary committee and we brought Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann to Mullingar for two years. It will bring in the region of €100m plus to the local economy over the two years – that’s a fact.

“Any business that can make money, we are thrilled over that. As volunteers we have to raise €1.7m. I would just like to ask the businesses to support us where they can. I understand that things are tough in business, I am a salesman, myself, on the road every day.”

While he stressed that he would like to sincerely thank all those sponsors who have come on board to support this year, he says that the committee “would expect a bit more support from those within the town who gained out of the fleadh last year”.

“We are getting plenty of support from the businesses on the outskirts of the town in the industrial estates, who will not really gain anything from the fleadh apart from putting their name out there as being proud to be supporting this huge event that probably won’t be back in my lifetime in the town.

“All I am doing is putting the word out there. We are less than 100 days out from the fleadh and I would like to encourage people to come on board and help us out.

“A big part of running the fleadh is collecting the money. We set out to pay all of our bills. We achieved that last year and we want to achieve that this year.

“I certainly don’t want to have to go back to the local authority asking for anything, not one cent, to bail us out.”

Joe says that despite the success of last year’s event, the members of the organising committee tasked with securing sponsorship have found it more challenging this time around.

“It’s been very difficult to get money this year. I understand that business is tough. When we were getting €5,000 gold sponsorship off people last year, they are maybe giving us silver sponsorship (€2,500) this year.”

Praising Minister Peter Burke and Deputy Robert Troy for their support when it comes to trying to secure financial support from the state and at European level, Joe says that “every cent matters”.

“We have various ways that people can help us out. We have our car draw. Someone is going to win a car worth around €35,000, a Volkswagen Golf 2-litre diesel supplied by Mullingar Autos. People can buy a €20 ticket or three for €50. Every €20 counts.”

This year’s fleadh will be officially launched on Saturday May 20, at a special event in the Market Square at 6.30pm. This year’s event runs from Sunday August 6 to Monday August 14.