The tourism development agency said the decision to cut funding for the 2017 Rose Festival is because it takes place at the height of the summer season and it wants to focus on promoting off-season events instead.
The state agency is investing €2.8m in national festivals this year, roughly the same amount as last year.
However, the cut has been criticised by the festival organisers in Tralee, who say grant aid for the festival has consistently lagged other regions and smaller festivals. The Rose, one of Ireland’s longest-running festivals and now in its 58th year, is not valued enough, a spokesman for the festival said.
“Fáilte Ireland has, time and again, cut their funding to the Rose of Tralee International Festival,” he said. “In 2016, they provided €30,000 for the street festival, which would equate to 10% of the cost of funding the street entertainment. This year they have further cut the grant by 50% to €15,000.
“We will work very hard to minimise any impact that this may have on the level of street entertainment that will be on show at this year’s event.
“Many other, much smaller, festivals also receive higher funding than the Rose of Tralee. We believe that Fáilte Ireland should place more value on the Rose of Tralee International Festival as a driver of tourism throughout the calendar year.”
Meanwhile, selections are underway for this year’s contestants, which will see 65 Roses from Ireland and Irish communities around the globe travel to Kerry for the seven-day festival. The 2017 Rose will be crowned live on RTÉ 1 on August 22. Although viewer numbers have dropped, the broadcast of the final is one of the most watched programmes on RTÉ, with an average of 618,000 viewers last year.
Fáilte Ireland has defended the cut, saying that between 2014 and 2016 the festival had received funding to the tune of €100,000.
“We review our festival funding every year with a view to generating incremental visitor growth and revenue,” it said. “Crucially, Fáilte Ireland funding for festivals in 2017 is focussed on growing tourism demand outside the peak season and to spread and grow tourism demand more evenly across the country.
“As the Rose of Tralee takes place in Kerry in August [i.e. in a tourism hotspot over the peak season], it does not offer the same scope to grow significant additional tourism numbers and activity as other events may.”
It also said that while the festival may receive less funding, it would fund the Quest Adventure, a series of one-day multi-sport adventure racing with four stages: Quest Killarney, which took place on March 18; Quest Glendalough, Quest Achill; and Quest Killarney .
“Therefore, we have funded event activity in Kerry to drive off-season activity in March and October,” Fáilte Ireland said.