Donegal musicians in programme celebrating 70 years of Gael Linn

A new programme celebrating 70 years of the Irish language organisation Gael Linn will feature some of Donegal’s most famous musicians.

‘Gael Linn ag 70’ will air on TG4 this evening at 8pm (December 26) featuring music and conversation with an all star cast such as Moya Brennan, Iarla Ó Lionáird, Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, Liam Ó Maonlaí, Colm Mac Con Iomaire & Rossa Ó Snodaigh, Maighread & Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill, Mary Bergin & Macdara Ó Faoláin, IMLÉ, Sarah Ghriallais, Muintir Uí Beaglaoich, Gráinne Holland, Peadar Ó Riada, Niamh Farrell, Jos & Ted Kelly, Binneas (Siansa Gael Linn 2023), Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin & Colm Bairéad.

The establishment of Gael Linn was both ambitious and aspirational. Founded by a determined group of university graduates, who believed that the economic failures in the Gaeltacht areas needed to be addressed for the language to survive and that new and contemporary methods were urgently required to ensure that the Irish language would have a viable role in a modern Ireland. Rather than looking to the state to help achieve these aims, Gael Linn set about establishing their own resources to match their ambition.


In 1953 Gael Linn began a weekly programme on Raidió Éireann which gave them the unique ability to showcase its various entrepreneurial, educational and cultural initiatives. More importantly perhaps, it also provided a national platform for the Irish language and traditional music and song for the very first time. Gael Linn soon established a record label to satisfy the growing demand for this music and so began a new era for Irish music where its significance to our sense of national identity was established.

This celebratory programme begins with a piece of newly composed poetry which tells the story of Gael Linn and which is presented by Megan Nic Ruairí, a member of the talented group Bláth na hÓige, who most recently released a record on the Gael Linn label.

Gael Linn’s influence on the commercially published music of Donegal by the likes of Clannad, Aodh Ó Duibhennaigh, Skara Brae and Altan is discussed by Moya Brennan, Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh and Maighread & Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill.

From its inception Gael Linn was an all-Ireland organisation and they had an office in County Armagh since the 1950s. Pádraigín Ní Uallácháin, Réamonn Ó Ciaráin, Antoine Ó Coileáin and Gráinne Holland will discuss this, along with Belfast cultural hero Albert Fry and the impact Gael Linn had on Irish life in the Six Counties.

Seán Ó Cualáin Executive Producer of Aniar says “Aniar was delighted to undertake this project on the story of Gael Linn and to highlight how they created the Irish language creative sector that we have today. Gael Linn proved that our traditions can be central to renewal but above all this programme illustrate’s the positive impact that one generation can have on future generations.”

IFTA award winning producer & music director of the programme Dónal O’Connor says “I have had a personal connection throughout my life with Gael Linn. My parents, Eithne Ní Uallacháin and Gerry O’Connor released a record on the label in 1987 and my aunt, Pádraigín Ní Uallácháin, released several records with them as well. As a schoolboy I competed in Debating competitions, in SLOGADH and I was an adjudicator for the Gael Linn SIANSA Competition over the years. Later on Gael Linn asked me to produce records for the label such as Gráinne Holland – Gaelré, Eithne Ní Uallacháin – Bilingua & Gatehouse – Tús Nua, records that were awarded 5* in the Irish Times”, Dónal adds “I have always understood the importance of Gael Linn’s work collecting, preserving and making this incredible archive of music and song available to the public. Amongst the varied aspects of Gael Linn’s work over the years, I believe that the music and the music label are the most significant and that we decided to focus on that in this celebratory program”.

Director Oisín Ó hEartáin, says “I had my first experience with Gael Linn from a young age when I started performing music at the SCLÉIP competitions. The amount of fun and creative energy I had getting to know people who were just like me from all over the country, there was nothing else like it at that young age. Of course, we have personal experience with Gael Linn in the family, considering all the work my grandfather, Brian Ó Baoill, has done over the years too. It was a great honour for me to commemorate 70 years of the exceptional work that Gael Linn has achieved, collecting and preserving music, promoting Gaeilge and all the work they have done to change this country’s mindset in terms of our language and our tradition.”


Réamonn Ó Ciaráin, CEO of Gael Linn, says: “All of us at Gael Linn are delighted that this special programme, Gael Linn ag 70, will be broadcast on TG4. A great wealth of heritage has been recorded on the iconic Gael Linn label and it is important that part of that large catalogue and interesting archive from the organization’s accomplished history are central to the program that has been so beautifully and artistically produced by the team at ANIAR.”

Anna Ní Ghallachair, chairperson of the TG4 Board says “This beautiful programme features a multitude of musicians giving recognition to the vision and the movement which started out trying to preserve the language and traditional Irish music, a tradition which is now recognised as one of the great musical cultures of the world, with wealth, energy and endless possibilities.”


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