Readers like you keep news free for everyone.

More than 5,000 readers have already pitched in to keep free access to The Journal.

For the price of one cup of coffee each week you can help keep paywalls away.

Support us today
Not now
Dublin: 13°C Tuesday 16 August 2022

'We must give musicians a chance': Quotas for Irish music got TDs very fired up

“It stimulates you. It invigorates you. It’s what we come from, it’s where we come from”.


LABOUR’S PROPOSED MUSIC Bill got some TDs backs up last night.

While some politicians were hammering out the details of the new rent scheme, others were arguing about Irish music on the airwaves – and  doing so quite passionately.

Among those present were Alan Kelly, Joan Burton, Eamon Ryan, Michael Fitzmaurice, and Pat the Cope Gallagher.

Although there were lots of opinions from both sides of the debate, Labour’s Willie Penrose (who introduced the bill), and independent Mattie McGrath gave the most explosive reactions once it became clear the bill wouldn’t pass this stage.

Mattie McGrath encouraged people to listen to Irish music, saying “it stimulates you. It invigorates you. It’s what we come from, it’s where we come from”.

Fianna Fail Think Ins 2009 Source: Photocall Ireland

“I love Irish heritage – the music, song and dance. I am an all-Ireland champion set dancer. I cannot dance tonight here because there is no one to play the tune. B’fhéidir go mbeidh rince againn tar éis an oíche seo in áit eile.

“We were told what happens in the US and the UK. I say to hell with the US and UK. There is too much influence from those places coming in here. We need our culture, identity and heritage.”

“The disappointment among musicians is palpable,” said Penrose. “These people are going out and creating employment. At least 15 wage packets are generated by the likes of Nathan Carter, Michael English, Foster and Allen and others.

It is a big industry. Stephen Travers, a former member of the Miami Showband told me that there are 8,000 to 10,000 jobs involved here. Do Deputies have any concept of what is involved here?

“We must give Irish musicians a chance again. I urge the Minister to allow the Bill to go forward to Committee Stage.  We can deal with any issues that arise.”

Lead up to the ruckus

18/7/2016 Labour Party's Housing Bills Source:

The bill, which calls for a 40% quota of Irish music on radios across the country, was criticised by some TDs as not being specific as to what ‘Irish music’ meant.

Although Penrose said that it would include “even rock and pop” most of his argument seemed to be referring to Irish ‘traditional’ or folk music – but the Bill doesn’t specify.

TDs raised the point that this would mean if a radio station wasn’t compliant, that it would lead to a court appearance to define what Irish music meant (how would an Irish singer singing opera be classified?)

Making a difference

A mix of advertising and supporting contributions helps keep paywalls away from valuable information like this article.

Over 5,000 readers like you have already stepped up and support us with a monthly payment or a once-off donation.

For the price of one cup of coffee each week you can make sure we can keep reliable, meaningful news open to everyone regardless of their ability to pay.

Pat the Cope Gallagher said that he supported the bill in principle, and that these issues could easily be hammered out at a later stage.

But Minister Denis Naughten argued that there was already a guideline that 30% of music played should be Irish music, and according to the Minister many stations play “over and above” this number.

(Penrose previously questioned these statistics, asking: “How is that measured? The 30% could be played at 3 o’clock in the morning.”)

Meanwhile Michael Fitzmaurice said that it wasn’t any politician that preserved the culture of Irish traditional music, but parents and their children:

No matter where we are, be it a wedding and we have too many pints on us, the final thing the Irish will do at night is to get together and sing the songs of which we are proud.

“Tonight, I heard this one and the other one has done all the work in ensuring the Irish music business has survived.

“Mothers and fathers around Ireland who brought their youngsters to learn guitar, the fiddle or whatever instrument, are the ones who kept the music alive in this country, as did those who went out one time ago to the different dance halls before they were ever hotels to hear the live bands.”

There are music quotas to promote ‘traditional’ or native music in France, Canada and South Africa.

Read: A new Bill is calling for a quota of Irish music on the radio – and the music industry isn’t happy about it

About the author:

Read next: