Armagh could possibly throw its name in the hat to host Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann after council agreed to explore its viability to be explored.
Sinn Fein’s Darren McNally, who tabled the motion, stated that there would be many challenges but “Armagh would be a fitting venue with its rich heritage and culture”.
He said: “This is a way to showcase the borough on a national and international level”.
Councillor McNally said this motion would be for the practical issues to be explored and economic benefits investigated.
Party colleague Garath Keating, who seconded the motion, said: “There is a long way to go but it would be a fantastic place to hold it in Armagh.”
He added: “There is huge potential for the music to bring communities together, as it did when it was held in Derry”.
DUP councillor Mark Baxter claimed it was a “headline grabbing motion”.
He pointed to councillor Keating’s previous claims that the council had “no money” to pay for the borough to host Armed Forces Day “in this tough economic time”.
Councillor Baxter commented: “Why such a drastic change in just four weeks”.
Alliance councillor Peter Lavery said his party would support the motion seeing it as a “real coup” if the event were held in Armagh.
SDLP councillor Joe Nelson stated: “This motion is asking that the council investigate if this is financially viable but it has been shot down due to its greenness, Irishness or nationalness by the DUP.”
The UUP’s Sam Nicholson stated: “I am an advocate for Armagh city, this is about music and Armagh has a rich heritage of culture and arts.
“Although I do have reservations as to the scale of this, this is just an exercise to look into it.”
He added: “I just want to ensure it is an event that is open to everybody and welcoming of everybody.”
DUP Alderman Stephen Moutray commented that on the website for the event it is said that this is also a celebration of the Irish language.
He stated: “Given how Sinn Fein had politicised the Irish language, how can you expect any unionist to embrace this.”
Alliance councillor Eoin Tennyson added: “Let’s not make this a tit for tat, orange for green, issue of political football.”
Councillor McNally said: “There is nothing political here, I believe this could be a catalyst for change and it could put Armagh and this borough on the map.”
A vote was taken and the motion was passed by 21 votes to 10.
Speaking after Monday’s meeting, councillor Baxter said: “We are hugely disappointed that we were the only party to vote against this potential colossal spend by council in these very tough economic times; the other parties were quite happy to task officers to investigate bringing the Fleadh Cheoil to Armagh despite the huge cost involved.
“Ironically it was only three weeks ago that Sinn Fein refused to back another much smaller proposal for a community event citing a lack of council resources.
“I would question in the strongest possible terms the economic benefits and the motives for bringing such an event and why the UUP and Sinn Fein are so keen to bring the event to Armagh which has in the past had
some very controversial artists; indeed we all can point to similar festivals recently held in Belfast where its very clear that “unionists” were not welcome with Pro-IRA chanting and bands imploring the British to “go back home”.
“I would call on councillors to reflect on this wanton disregard for the public purse and remind
them of their responsibilities in delivering first class services for best value.
“The DUP make no apology for being the champions of low rates in council.”