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Scariff Harbour Festival Commitee Members Harry O’Meara, Karina O’Brien and Mike Rodgers. Photograph: Natasha Barton

POLITICAL SUCCESS of the Alliance Party will be among the talking points at the Waterways Ireland Scariff Harbour Festival which returns at the end of July.

A significant change in political allegiance followed the huge electoral success of the Alliance Party in Northern Ireland last May. In the heartland of unionism, Stewart Dickson returned two seats for the Alliance Party in East Antrim for the first time with his running mate Danny Donnelly. Dickson will outline the impact of the Alliance Party’s success for people North & South of the border, when he officially opens the upcoming Scariff Harbour Festival.

Running from the 29th to 31st of July, the festival returns after a two year absence. Chairman of the organising committee, Michael Rodgers outlined, “Although primarily a family festival, we continue to maintain a link with Northern Ireland, set down when the festival and our relationship with Waterways Ireland began in 2003”.

This year will also be the first of “a new supportive relationship” with EKO Integrated Services who now operate a warehousing and logistics service on the former Finsa Forest site.

It has been a source of great pride in East Clare that the Waterways Ireland Western Regional HQ was established in Scariff as one of the North South Implementation Bodies under the British/Irish Agreement in 1999 and continues to be an important presence today.

A fantastic and varied range of land and water-based events will take place for the festival. Street activities will bring the town alive with an open-air market, scouting capers from the 10th Clare Scariff/Mountshannon Scout Group, magic and comedy with Oisin Foley and Zumba with Taylor, a Latin inspired fitness dance programme for everyone.

Bands have always been a feature of the festival and none more so than this year. Clare based 80s & 90s rock band, ‘Blue Herring’ and ‘Cash Returns’ a duo who will take the audience to a place and time when Cash & Carter (Johnny & June) reigned supreme are among the confirmed acts.

Set dancers will batter it out to the sound of the celebrated Kilfenora Céilí Band on final night, followed by folk and trad band ‘Drops of Green’. Scariff singer song-writer, Faye Moloney will perform to her local audience on Saturday evening and ‘Spirit of Smokie’ returns to wide appeal, while sweet East Clare music can be heard at the Harbour earlier in the evening.

Talks and walks continue to be a popular part of the programme. Master fiddle player, Martin Hayes will chat about aspects of his recently published memoir ‘Shared Notes – A Musical Journey’ at Scariff Library, genealogist Jane Halloran-Ryan will talk of emigrant stories from East Clare parishes to Ellis Island at the turn of the 20th century, while native woodland specialist, Andrew St Ledger will take people on a journey through time from St. Cronan’s Church in Tuamgraney to the community Native Woodland Restoration Project in Raheen. Orchards, bees and flowers will be central to biodiversity tours and children’s treasure hunt at Irish Seedsaver’s 20 acre farm at Capparoe, just outside Scariff.

For the water sports enthusiasts, there is Kayaking on the Scariff River with Derg Isle Adventure Centre and free Waterway Ireland Boat Tours. For the landlubbers, there’s a guided 14.5km looped walk through Cappabane and the Scariff Hills with Marie Bugler while the kids expend all their energy in the GAA Park with Toons and Balloons and lots of games and activities. Weather permitting Outdoor Mass will be held at the Mass Rock in Cappabane on Sunday and indoors McKernan Woollen Mills will have Open Days over the festival week-end.

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