Shannon Airport has announced that it will be main sponsor for the world’s largest Irish traditional music festival, Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann Inis 2016. In what will be the biggest ‘homecoming’ of 2016, some 400,000, including thousands from abroad, will gather as traditional Irish music, song and dance returns to Clare.
The event also takes place on the 60th anniversary of the first Fleadh in Ennis, which is generally recognised as having played a pivotal role in the renaissance of Irish traditional culture.
The sponsorship was announced at Shannon Airport in the company of three generations of the Droney family from Bellharbour in Clare, including 91-year-old Chris Droney, who performed at that inaugural Ennis Fleadh 60 years ago. He was accompanied by his daughter Ann, a three times All-Ireland Concertina Champion, and his granddaughter Ciara, a third generation concertina player. Chris said: “I won’t say it’s like yesterday but the Fleadh in 1956 was an incredible event. It gave a massive shot in the arm to Irish music and culture and so much happened from there. It was no coincidence that the Fleadh was held in Ennis as Clare has always been associated with traditional music.
“There certainly weren’t many people flying in for the Fleadh, if any, 60 years ago and it shows how much the Fleadh and Clare has come on that so many will be flying in through our local airport for it. It’s great that the airport has put its weight behind the Fleadh.”
Dancing to the sweet concertina playing of the Droney family at the sponsorship announcement were the Keane sisters from Ballyalla in Ennis: Emilie (5), Zoe (8) and Aimee (15). Aimee came fifth in the World Dancing Championships earlier this year, while Zoe came second in the All-Scotland Championships.
Announcing the sponsorship, Rose Hynes, Chairman of Shannon Group plc, said: “This is a sponsorship Shannon Airport was proud to commit to. There are two things that Clare is particularly synonymous with and that’s incredible scenery and incredible culture. Ennis is, therefore, a perfect home for the Fleadh. While it is hard to believe that it is 39 years since the Fleadh was in Clare, it will be more than worth the wait in August when it returns as it will be one great party.”
Mary Considine, Acting Chief Executive, Shannon Group said: “The hosting of Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in Ennis this year is a huge event for the county and the wider Mid-West region. It will generate €38 million for the local economy drawing 400,000 visitors for the event, including thousands from abroad.
“Clare has such a proud tradition with music, song and dance and visitors this year to Ennis can expect a Fleadh to remember. Ennis will be a stadium of 400,000 people. This is going to be one great homecoming and with Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann we look forward to welcoming many of those people through our airport.”
The Fleadh will open on 14th August with the Pageant Seachtar Fear/Seacht Lá, originally written for the 50th Anniversary of the 1916 Rising by Bryan McMahon. This will be held in Cusack Park in Ennis.