Dancers at the Leinster Fleadh in Portlaoise in 2011.
The bid to bring Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann to Laois in 2020/2021 received a significant boost when two big sponsors stepped forward to back what is one of the biggest festivals in Ireland.
ESB Networks and EirGrid became the first companies to respond with financial support for this community project.
Portlaoise Comhaltas is the lead branch in the bid to be Leinster's nominee. The bid also has the backing and active involvement of other Laois branches.
The organisers say Laois' track record in hosting big events will support the bid. They list the recent successful hosting of the National Ploughing Championships at Ratheniska for three years and the annual Electric Picnic at Stradbally.
More below picture
Pictured supporting the All-Ireland Fleadh bid by Portlaoise CCE, Stephen Dunne, EirGrid, Aileen Delaney, Joint Treasurer, Noreen Whelan, Secretary, Paul Dempsey ESB Networks.
The organisers believe these events have established a reputation for the smooth organisation of major events of international significance.
Another plus, according to the organisers, is that Portlaoise boasts the largest provincial GAA grounds in Leinster and is used to accommodating major crowds.
Laois GAA also co-hosted the Féile na nGael in 2008 with Offaly. Similar to the Fleadh Cheoil, the Féile drew thousands of people to both counties from the four corners of Ireland.
Speaking at the announcement of sponsorship, Paul Dempsey, ESB Networks said the company was delighted to get behind the bid.
“ESB Networks is very pleased to offer this financial support so that the correct resources in the area can be quantified and presented in a professional manner. This can also be used to attract other major events to the area.
“ESB Networks has a long, positive impact in the county since the building of the Shannon scheme and the construction of our substation for the Midlands at Portlaoise in 1927,” he said.
David Martin, a spokesman for EirGrid, also looked forward to supporting the Portlaoise bid.
“EirGrid has a strong association with Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann having sponsored the festival in Cavan in 2010, 2011 and 2012. We are delighted to support Laois’ bid to host the Fleadh and there is no doubt it will be a tremendous success,” he said.
More below picture
Pictured - Jody Conway, Vice Chair Leinster Council CCE examining the bid document with former GAA President Liam O’Neill and Noreen Whelan, bid secretary
Thanking ESB Networks and EirGrid for their leadership in coming behind the bid to bring the Fleadh to Laois, Cathaoirleach PJ Phelan pointed out that this is the largest cultural event in Europe and will be of immense financial benefit to the host location and surrounding towns.
“Our branch is run by a voluntary committee and there is serious competition from other branches within Leinster, not to mention the other provinces who are bidding,” he said.
Donal Brennan, acting chairman of Laois Tourism, said Portlaoise is well placed to land the bid.
“The availability of the excellent, modern school facilities in Portlaoise and its central location is our major attraction, the ESB Networks and EirGrid sponsorship at this stage is a key factor in strengthening our bid,” said the Laois County Council official.
Within Leinster, there are three other strong contenders - Wexford with its historical associations, Tullamore which recently hosted the Fleadh on three occasions and Mullingar bidding to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the founding of An Comhaltas there in 1951.
The Leinster provincial council chooses its nominee on December 16 and the successful bid will then go before the Árd Comhairle of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann for decision later in 2019.
Should Portlaoise be chosen all business interests in the county and indeed firms with a national and international profile will have the opportunity to be associated with the biggest family-friendly cultural event in Europe.
Pictured below - PJ Phelan, Chair Laois Co Board CCE and John Mulholland, CEO Laois County Council signing the Memorandum of Understanding for the Bid to host Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann.