Con Curtin Festival 2019
Speech29 June 2019
MOS Cannon Speech – Con Curtin Festival 2019
Brosna, Co. Kerry – 29th June 2019
Dia dhíbh a chairde,
Is cúis áthais dom bheith anseo libh tráthnóna leis an bhféile cheoil seo mar cheiliúradh ar shaol agus ar shaothar Con Curtin.
I am very grateful to you for the wonderful welcome to Brosna. I would like to say a special word of thanks to the organisers for all the great work they have done in bringing us together to celebrate the life of the legendary Con Curtin, and in particular to Shelagh O’Connor for inviting me here to say a few words. It’s a great privilege to be here among friends and fellow musicians.
I want to pay tribute to the organisers for having chosen ‘Returning Home to Brosna’ as this year’s festival theme and for your efforts in reaching out to the diaspora. To those that have travelled from further afield, may I extend a traditional céad míle fáilte to each and every one of you.
Con Curtin was an extraordinary musician and a pillar of the local community, and it is a testament to his legacy to see this festival, named in his honour, go from strength to strength, year after year, centered around the great musical tradition of Sliabh Luachra that he so loved.
It is touching to see a community festival that not only celebrates this art form, but also involves every member of that community, from the school children who submitted more than 50 photos into the photo competition, to the experienced old hands who have passed on their musical knowledge in workshops today. As Minister for the Diaspora, it is personally heart-warming to see the festival reach out to Brosna’s sons and daughters overseas, and indeed our wider affinity diaspora, and involve them in this celebration.
Indeed it was another of North Kerry’s illustrious sons, Con Houlihan, who when asked about Sliabh Luachra, once said it’s just as much a state of mind as it is a geographical location. I think this is a perfect way to encapsulate our approach to deepening engagement with our global Irish diaspora. It is important that we continue reaching out to people of Irish heritage and ensure that they always have the opportunity to connect to Ireland, but it is equally important to engage with our affinity diaspora.
Of the Irish who emigrated to America, Patricia Harty wrote “Fleeing starvation with few or no material possessions, they brought their music and song and tales of home as they spread out across the land, until there was not a corner they didn’t touch or leave their mark upon. They became American. And, yet, despite their identification with the American way of life, they continue to have an interest in their Irish heritage, and a sometimes poignant emotional connection to the land of their ancestors.”
Music is the perfect vehicle to spark this connection. It is thanks to people like Con Curtin that our small nation is able today to build upon a global appreciation for our culture, arts and heritage. Con Curtin himself emigrated to London, where he kept alive the traditions of North Kerry, enriching his adopted city with the music and cultural heritage from back home.
As Minister for the Diaspora I have seen how the celebration of shared culture and heritage can bring people from different backgrounds together. In no area is this as clear as in music.
I am proud that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is able to engage with many Irish organisations that carry our musical tradition to other parts of the world.
I was recently in Australia, where among many other Irish community groups I had the honour of meeting the musicians of the Canberra Irish Club. They, like thousands of similar groups around the world, keep traditional Irish music alive beyond these shores. They also demonstrate how it is grassroots participation and a tireless volunteer spirit that makes organisations and events successful. The Con Curtin Music Festival is, of course, a shining example of this spirit.
The Department has also had a particularly close partnership with Comhaltas Ceoltoirí Éireann since 2005. With hundreds of branches worldwide, Comhaltas provides classes, organises festivals, brings musicians and dancers on tour and publishes recordings, books and tutorials of traditional Irish music. Comhaltas are using Irish music to reach out to the younger generation of Irish communities abroad and to our affinity diaspora.
In the latest chapter of the history of the Global Irish, we see the need to continually review the way we engage with our diaspora, as Irish people travel to an increasingly diverse range of places in every corner of the world. It is our job, as the Irish Government, to continue thinking about creating links to global Irish communities. For this purpose, we are currently holding public meetings, chaired by myself, where anyone with an interest in how we engage with Irish communities overseas can come and share their views. We will use these views to create the Government’s new Diaspora Policy for 2020. This Monday evening, 1st of July, we will be in Tralee and you are all most welcome to attend. You will find all the details on our website.
I have seen from my own experience the benefits that come from the human connections between strong local communities in Ireland, and the global Irish who are seeking that personal connection with home and with each other. As I am sure you already know, there is something special about knowing you have a place to come home to, even if you have never been to Ireland before.
I have no doubt that the Con Curtin Traditional Music Festival will continue to grow and reach ever more people, and continue to provide that sense of a strong local identity, of traditions that live and change and are passed on between the generations. Nor do I have any doubts that it will be in that, that we can best honour the legacy of an extraordinary musician whose spirit still lives in this place.
It remains only for me to thank you again for inviting me here today. I wish you a very happy last day of the Festival tomorrow, and I hope that those of you who are visiting will leave with fond cherished memories.
Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.