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I believe that the 2016 Ulster Fleadh, which was held in Bangor for the first time and which ran over a period of nine days in July, was successful. Thousands of people attended and participated in the festival, and the 25 events and sessions that took place were well supported. The "Bagoa" — I may have pronounced that incorrectly, but I understand that it translates as "lively", so I do have some knowledge — concert had approximately 500 in attendance, and the Sands Family concert was also a major triumph, with over 350 attending the event. Overall, the Fleadh incorporated a wide variety of events that took place across different venues in the Ards and North Down borough. The report from local businesses was that it was beneficial to the local economy through the bed-nights that it created. The Fleadh was also recently awarded the best tourist event or activity in the North Down Business Awards 2016. Of course, the Ulster Fleadh is to return to Bangor in July next year.
Before I call the Member for a supplementary, I advise Members to tone down the background noise a bit in order that the questions and, indeed, the responses can be heard. Thank you for that.
I thank the Minister for his answer. I think that the group that the Minister is referring to is Beoga. Can the Minister give his assurance that his Department and its ALBs will give the work of the Comhaltas the same value as the other federations that are involved with music and bands?
Unfortunately, my Irish is not quite as good as Her Majesty the Queen's, so apologies for that. I recognise the cultural value that Comhaltas provides. I expect it, and any organisation in the arts, to be treated fairly when it comes to the different funding streams that are available through the Arts Council and when applications are put forward. Where they meet the requirements in the criteria, they will be successful. I have said before in the House that I recognise the cultural diversity that exists in Northern Ireland, and I believe that it enriches our heritage and should be supported.
This has been a hugely successful scheme that I reintroduced; it did previously exist. However, the fact has been highlighted in the process that the criteria should be looked at, and therefore I will establish a steering group that will conduct a review of the musical instruments for bands policy.
Again, that fund is available to all who are eligible, whatever section of the community they are from.
Minister, I can confirm that this was an event enjoyed by visitors and locals alike. We look forward to its return. Will the Minister take this opportunity to acknowledge and compliment the work of volunteers and venue owners who make events like this happen?
These events are successful. This generated over 800 bed-nights in north Down. Thousands of people attended, and therefore there is a benefit to the local community. The volunteers who support events like this and events that take place right across the Province in a whole range of areas, whether cultural or sporting, generate a positive impact for the local business community. The businesses that embrace these activities will see financial benefit, so it should be a win-win.