There was music and song in the County House in Lifford on Monday evening as the Cathaoirleach and elected members of Donegal County Council honoured Altan for their contribution to traditional Irish music and being global ambassadors for Donegal for the past 30 years.
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.
He said: "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.”
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.