The many achievements of Irish Traditional music group ‘Altan’ were celebrated at a special civic reception at Donegal County Council.
Ciarán Curran, Martin Tourish, Mark Kelly and Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh were honoured as fantastic global ambassadors for Donegal and the Irish traditional music scene for the past 30 years.
Music swelled through the council chamber as the talented band performed some lively tunes. Friends, families and public representatives packed into the room for the unforgettable event.
Altan started life in 1987 when Mairead Ní Mhaonaigh and her late husband Frankie Kennedy formed the group that has gone on to become one of the most internationally acclaimed Irish folk groups and has collaborated with music greats such as Dolly Parton, Enya, the Chieftains, Donal Lunny, Steve Cooney and Alison Krauss and many others.
Ciaran Curran and Mark Kelly joined Mairead and Frankie in their early years as did Paul O’Shaughnessy who left the group in 1993. Ciaran Tourish and Daithi Sproule joined Altan in the early ‘90’s and Ciaran retired just last year in 2017 while Daithi continues to play with the group. Dermot Byrne played with the group from the mid ‘90’s until 2013 and Martin Tourish joined them in 2013 and continues to play with them today.
Each of these musicians made their mark on the group and contributed in no small way to unique sound that has become the hallmark of Altan.
Speaking at the Civic Reception, Cathaoirleach Cllr. Gerry McMonagle said “Altan has shared the story of Donegal through their unique music. They have inspired and moved audiences and they have brought the beauty of Irish traditional music and the Irish language to all parts of the world. And in doing this they have conveyed the essence of Donegal and of our special sense of place in the world. It is truly an honour to be in a position to host this civic reception which is our way of conveying our gratitude for all they have done and achieved”.
Chief Executive of Donegal County Council Seamus Neely described Altan as wonderful ambassadors for Donegal and mentioned especially the great musicians from Donegal and beyond who have inspired their music including Mairead’s father Francie Mooney. He thanked them for their commitment to Donegal and to the North West of Ireland and for keeping Donegal in the hearts and minds of all who listen to their music and for reaching out to all those with a strong connection to the county.
A representative from each political grouping on the Council also paid tribute to the group as did Pat The Cope Gallagher TD and Pearse Doherty TD who also attended the special event.
In his address Cathaoirleach Cllr. Gerry McMonagle also paid tribute to the late Frankie Kennedy who was instrumental in establishing the group saying “his spirit, his memory and his legacy lives on in the music of Altan. He had a vision for Altan and he wanted them to continue to bring their unique sound to all corners of the world. I believe that you have achieved this and that you have kept his memory and his legacy alive through your uncompromising approach to your music and your creative endeavours”.
Sinn Féin Councillor John Sheamais Ó Fearraigh offered his congratulations to the members of Altan.
Speaking at the ceremony, which was proposed by Cllr Ó Fearraigh, he said: “I am truly delighted that my motion that the Council host a civic reception in honour of Altan was unanimously accepted and supported by my fellow members of Donegal County Council.
“Altan has been entertaining and inspiring audiences and music enthusiasts both here at home and across the globe for many years now and, ever since its early days, the group has displayed an unwavering commitment to traditional Irish music and song; bringing it into the main stream and on to the world stage.
“In fact lead vocalist, Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, is often recognised as one of the great female singers to hail from Ireland, something which is no mean feat considering that she stands alongside the likes of Mary Black, Moya Brennan and Sinéad O’Connor, to name but a few who are also mentioned in the same breathe.
“And while Altan has gone on to enjoy astounding international success and acclaim, they have never forgotten their roots.
“And despite all their success, the band has done much to promote our country and indeed this county and I can think of few other ambassadors as deserving of such recognition and praise as Altan in this regard.
“For years, the band has performed to generations of Irish people who’ve left these shores and they’ve played to Irish immigrants in clubs and pubs across the US and elsewhere and, in doing so, they’ve offered Irish communities abroad a real and meaningful connection to home.
“It’s important therefore that we recognise this work, and the role Altan has played, not just in promoting Irish music, song and tradition, but also in helping our Diaspora when they were all but forgotten about by Governments and officialdom over the years.
“Today, I am delighted that Donegal County Council has taken this initiative to host this Civic Reception in recognition and in celebration of the band’s achievements.
“On behalf of my colleagues, I want to reiterate my congratulations to the band for receiving this honour, and I want to thank them for all that they have done for this county, in promoting not just our musical tradition, but also for acting as proud ambassadors for Donegal and its people – Go raibh maith agaibh.”
On behalf of the group, Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh thanked the Council for honouring them in this way and paid homage to the generosity of all the great musicians who have shared their music and their tunes with them.
They concluded the event with a few tunes in the Council Chamber.
Altan where presented with a specially commissioned painting by well known Irish artist Fiontan Gogarty along with an official scroll marking the occasion of the civic reception.
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