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Crowds attend Fleadh Cheoil 2018 Shutterstock/Derick Hudson
trad festival

Fleadh Cheoil organiser says Drogheda event will go ahead as planned in wake of crime fears

The annual event, manned and organised by over 1,000 volunteers, saw up to half a million people attend last year.

THE FLEADH CHEOIL na hÉireann festival in Drogheda, Co Louth is set to go ahead in six weeks’ time despite local speculation it may be cancelled due to the recent upsurge in feud-related violence in the town. 

The annual traditional music event, manned and organised by over 1,000 volunteers, saw up to half a million people attend across the week-long event in August of last year. 

However, the recent re-emergence of violence in the town – including a shooting and a series of petrol bombings in recent days – prompted speculation that the event would not take place. 

Paddy Donnelly, secretary to the festival and director of services at Louth County Council, has moved to reassure locals and visitors that planning is well underway and that “this year’s festival will be bigger and better than before”. 

The issue, and the incidents that have happened in Drogheda are unfortunate and not how we like to portray the town for those who live in it and for visitors.

“They’re not a showstopper for us as far as the Fleadh is concerned, and it will continue that way,” he said, adding “we’ve seen the level of interest in the Fleadh has not been slowed down in any sense”. 

The festival was raised to a new height in Drogheda in 2018 and we’re committed to ensuring it will be as good, if not better, in 2019.

Ongoing violence 

The ongoing feud began in July last year, when Owen Maguire was shot and wounded a number of times at his home on Cement Road.

Since the shooting, two gangs have been exchanging tit-for-tat attacks – mainly in the form of firing shots at people’s homes.

Violence erupted again in November between the two gangs and extra resources and armed-response units were deployed to the Louth region as a result of the upsurge of violence. 

Last month, Commissioner Drew Harris promised to send new garda recruits to Drogheda in response to recent violence in the town. 

Responding to speculation that the festival was in doubt over crime levels, Donnelly said the festival was going ahead as planned and that a delay in putting up posters might have sparked fears that it wasn’t happening. 

“We put the Fleadh notices up a bit later this year but the only reason for that was because we didn’t want to clash with the myriad of local election posters.

“Some people follow Fleadh developments on social media, while others say that it’s what they see at the side of the street.

“The Fleadh has been running for over sixty years but we don’t take lightly the issues that have happened in Drogheda,” he said. 

Organisers have already begun liaising with members of An Garda Síochana, as well as other emergency services, regarding safety of visitors ahead of the event which takes place in August. 

“We have been working closely - as we did last year – with locals and the chief superintendent here in Drogheda,” Donnelly said. 

“We meet on a regular basis with gardai – there’s a statutory structure there – so we meet with the gardaí, the HSE, the fire service, and planning service from Louth County Council.”

A garda spokesperson confirmed there would be a briefing ahead of the festival in the weeks to come and all concerns would be addressed at that.

There is a comprehensive policing and security plan in place for every event we attend.

“When planning for events a number of factors are considered such as attendance figures, demographic of patrons, traffic management etc. However for operational reasons we cannot discuss details of these arrangements ahead of any event.

“We want everyone to enjoy themselves for the weekend but do so in a safe manner.”

Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann takes place over a week from 11 August to 18 August with the full line-up available here

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