Willie Penrose hopes bill will be easy on the ears and provide more airtime for Irish music

Musicians John Sheahan, front right, and Phil Coulter, back middle, with tradional band Moxie outside Leinster House. Picture: Collins

The music session was in full swing outside Leinster House and it was only the second day back for politicians.

Musicians and singers serenaded TDs into Leinster House as the Labour party organised a variety concert outside the gates to show what people are missing when they turn on the radio.

Longford-Westmeath TD Willie Penrose wants to guarantee more airtime for music of Irish origin on the country’s airwaves and brought everyone from Phil Coulter, to John Sheahan of ‘The Dubliners’ and country star Michael English to prove why his bill would be easy on the ears.

After a few jigs from trad band Moxie and a haunting sean nós song performed by Sibéal Ní Chasaide, Mr Pensrose made his bid to drum up support for his Broadcasting (Amendment) Bill 2016.

“We have a wave of country and folk music coming up,” he said.

“You go to concerts of the like of Nathan Carter, Michael English and there are 800 to 1,000 people there, they are attracting people.”

The bill would require a quota of at least 40% of the airtime allotted to music on Irish radio stations to contain a “distinctive Irish element”, as a condition for the awarding of all sound and broadcasting contracts. This covers music of all genres — from folk, traditional and country to rock, pop and classical.

Mr Penrose, thought the only way to prove his point was to show off the talent on the Leinster House sidewalk.

As trad legend Mr Sheahan gave a rendition on the whistle, the crowd gathered and between the jigs and the reels you would never suspect Labour are a party who have lost all but seven TDs. Mr Penrose even danced out his 1,2,3s ceili steps on the footpath.

“A lot of people have a narrow connotation of what Irish music is, they think of jigs, reels, hornpipes and ‘come-all-ye’s, but Irish music is music composed, let’s say if Bono writes a song, is that Irish music? Of course it is,” Mr Sheahan said.

Composer Phil Coulter also chimed in: “For a whole new generation of talented kids in this country, I despair about what’s in store for them. Without support on radio the Irish music industry is already in decline and it is going to get worse unless they get radio support.”

As the band of musicians disbanded, Mr Penrose turned to his colleges inside the gates of Leinster House for support.

“In the context of the new make-up of the Dáil, the current political dispensation and the supposed new politics, I look forward to seeing this bill become fully- fledged, important legislation on the statute book.

“It will protect our musical heritage for future generations of our citizens. They deserve nothing less,” he said.


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